Irving Stolberg, former Speaker of the House and state representative for 22 years, was memorialized Tuesday at a gathering in the Legislative Office Building that he helped restore.
The New Haven Democrat, who passed away in February after a year-long battle with leukemia, was remembered by his legislative colleagues as someone who led with passion and conviction.
Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said party politics in the Elm City were often rough and tumble, but on more than one occasion Stolberg charted his own course supporting a party outsider instead of an anointed candidate. “I benefited from that,” Harp, now the co-chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday.
“We are all blessed that he passed our way and served the people of the 93rd district, this state, and our world,” Harp said.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said not only was Stolberg a champion of more progressive taxation, but he was a man of the world. He said the last time he saw Stolberg was when he brought a group of Chinese officials to the Legislative Office Building for a visit.
He said Stolberg traveled all over the world as an advisor to fledgling democratic governments. He said Stolberg had a strong sense of the power of legislative bodies both in Connecticut, this nation, and abroad.
Stolberg was remembered by Tuesday as the architect of the modern legislative branch of government. Stolberg who oversaw construction of the Legislative Office Building was credited for making the legislature a co-equal branch of government, on par with the executive branch.
“Irv Stolberg led with great passion for Connecticut,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Tuesday. She called Stolberg “an important architect of change.”
Others remember Stolberg as one of the “best parliamentarians this building had ever known.”
Former Hartford Rep. Annette Carter said that she was once accused of making racist remarks on the floor of the House during a debate. Even though she never thought her remarks were racist, there were some who wanted to censure her for them. Three days after the floor debate, Stolberg was called to a meeting where lawmakers were flipping through Mason’s Rules trying to figure out a way to save Carter from censure.
Carter said Stolberg walked in and said page 226 says you have to censure a member within 24 hours and it’s been 72 hours, so the point is mute.
Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, said he interned for Stolberg, while he was chairman of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee and thinking about running for House Speaker.
He said many didn’t want to give Stolberg a chance at Speaker of the House and many didn’t think he would prevail. But “he was the best vote counter I ever saw,” Gaffey said.
Stolberg did prevail and served as Speaker for four years and represented the 93rd District long enough to see the state usher in the income tax in 1991.
Gaffey described Stolberg as a man of “incredible intellect” with a “heart the size of a lion.”