Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • File | The Journal Gazette: Wayne Townsend stands near a pre-Civil War era barn in Grant County in this 2001 file photo. Townsend, a former state senator and the 1984 Democratic candidate for governor, has died.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:38 am

Former state senator Wayne Townsend dies

The Journal Gazette

Former state Sen. Wayne Townsend, a Hartford City Democrat who narrowly lost the 1984 gubernatorial race to incumbent Republican Gov. Robert D. Orr, died Friday.

Townsend died during a family trip to Michigan, the owner of Waters Funeral Home in Hartford City told the Associated Press. He was in his late 80s and had been suffering from a heart disease, the news service said.

After his legislative career of more than 20 years, Townsend, a farmer, served as a Purdue University trustee from 1989 to 2004. In November he was awarded the university's Order of the Griffin, its highest honor.

"Indiana just lost a great citizen and one of our greatest Boilermakers," Purdue President Mitch Daniels said in a statement. "I offer condolences to the Townsend family and sincere thanks for a lifetime of unsurpassed service."

In the 1984 race for governor, Orr, of Evansville, defeated Townsend by about 100,000 votes among about 2 million cast. That was the year that Republican President Ronald Reagan was re-elected to a second term in a landslide over Democrat Walter Mondale.

Townsend served as a state senator beginning in 1970, representing Adams, Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Huntington, Jay and Wells counties.

An Upland native, he graduated from Purdue with a degree in agriculture in 1951, and operated a 1,500-acre hog and grain farm in Grant and Blackford counties.

Townsend was an Army veteran of the Korean War, serving with the Army Counterintelligence Corps. He was elected to the Indiana House in 1958, and served there until being elected to the Senate.

Townsend's running mate in the 1984 race was Ann DeLaney of Indianapolis, who later served as state Democratic Party chairwoman.

The current party chair, John Zody, said in a statement:

"On behalf of the Indiana Democratic Party, we all mourn the passing of Wayne Townsend. As a longtime state legislator, Sen. Townsend fought for what he knew could be a better state and nation. Whether it was equal rights, education, agriculture or sticking up for working families, Wayne Townsend was a quintessential Hoosier leader through-and-through. And although he was our Party’s standard-bearer for governor in 1984, he led by example during his entire career in politics -- and for the rest of his life. He was a legend, and we will all miss him. We send our heartfelt condolences to Helen and all of Wayne’s family and loved ones."

For more on this story, visit later today or see Saturday's print edition of The Journal Gazette.