Orrin Hatch Biography

(United States Senator from Utah Between 1977 and 2019)

Birthday: March 22, 1934 (Aries)

Born In: Homestead, Pennsylvania, United States

Orrin Hatch was an American attorney, politician, musician and writer who served as a United States senator from Utah between 1977 and 2019, becoming the longest-serving Republican senator in history. A former Mormon bishop, he was consistently recognized as a crusader for conservative values, but often worked across the aisle to pass landmark legislations. He served as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions from 1981 to 1987, and also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2001 and 2003 to 2005. He further chaired the Senate Finance Committee in 2015-2019, and secured the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In 2015, he became president pro tempore of the Senate after the 114th United States Congress was sworn in.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Orrin Grant Hatch

Died At Age: 88


Spouse/Ex-: Elaine Hatch (m. 1957)

father: Jesse Hatch

mother: Helen Frances Hatch

children: Alysa Hatch, Brent Hatch, Jesse Hatch, Kimberly Hatch, Marcia Hatch, Scott Hatch

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Men

Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males

Died on: April 23, 2022

place of death: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Cause of Death: Stroke

U.S. State: Pennsylvania

More Facts

education: University Of Pittsburgh, Brigham Young University

awards: Presidential Medal of Freedom (2018)
Canterbury Medal (2020)

Childhood & Early Life

Orrin Grant Hatch was born on March 22, 1934 in Homestead, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh as sixth of nine children of Jesse Hatch, a metal lather, and his wife Helen Frances Hatch.

His parents lost their home during the Depression and lived in a ramshackle house, with a billboard for one wall and without indoor plumbing, on the wrong side of the tracks in Pittsburgh.

While two of his siblings died during infancy, he was profoundly affected after his older brother Jesse, a U.S. Army Air Forces nose turret gunner in a B-24, was killed on February 7, 1945. A lock of hair on the forehead of then-11-year-old Orrin, who idolized his brother, reportedly turned white overnight, and he resolved to live two lives: one for himself and one for his brother.

Bullied for wearing oversized humble clothes in Baldwin High School, he became captain of school basketball team and president of the student body, but took two years off proselytizing in Ohio before graduating in 1955. The first in his family to attend college, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Brigham Young University in 1959.

He obtained full scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, but worked three jobs to support his education until he received his juris doctor in 1962. He welcomed three children during law school and lived with his wife and children in the family's old chicken coop that he converted “into a tiny two-room bungalow, with a toilet and small stove”.

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Orrin Hatch began working as an attorney in a Pittsburgh law firm, but moved to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1969 to open his own practice. He had a thriving law career, but started his political journey almost on a whim, prompted by the urge to replace Democrat Frank Moss, who he felt “was completely out of step with Utah”.

Despite coming from a family of Roosevelt Democrats, he gradually became a conservative Republican, due to events like the Supreme Court’s ban on public-school prayers and its legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade. He concluded that America was headed in the wrong direction and “someone needed to stand against these trends”, and at 42, decided to take up the challenge.

He criticized three-term incumbent Frank Moss for his 18-year tenure in the 1976 Senate election in Utah, but following his win, went on to serve for seven terms despite campaign promise of term limits. He served as the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee from 1981 to 1987, and won a second term in 1982 against Democratic opponent Ted Wilson, Mayor of Salt Lake City.

In 1984, along with Henry A. Waxman, Democratic Representative from California, he authored and proposed the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act (also known as the Hatch-Waxman Act). The bill was approved and signed into law, establishing the modern system of government generic drug regulation in the United States and making it easier for generic drugs to enter the market.

He went on to defeat Democratic businessman Brian Moss, the son of his former opponent Frank Moss, by 35 points in the reelection in 1988. In 1990, he sponsored The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which provides compensation to victims of atmospheric nuclear testing, and worked across the aisle to pass landmark legislation like Americans with Disabilities Act.

He won reelection for a fourth term in 1994 by defeating Democratic candidate and lawyer Patrick Shea, securing 68.80% of the vote, which registered his best performance from all of his runs for senate. The next year, he was the leading figure behind the Senate's Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which was to a large extent a response to the Oklahoma City Bombing.

In 1997, he joined Ted Kennedy, Democratic senator from Massachusetts, with support from then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded health insurance coverage for American children.

In 2000, he won reelection to Senate, but had to withdraw candidacy for the Republican Party nomination for president after finishing last in the Iowa caucuses, and instead supported eventual winner George W. Bush.

Also in 2000, he was the main author of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protected all religions' right to build church facilities on private property.

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In 2001, he proposed the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, who were children when their parents came to the United States.

He won re-election to a sixth term in 2006 by defeating Democratic candidate Pete Ashdown, the founder and CEO of Utah's oldest Internet service provider, XMission. Two years later, he was instrumental in the extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, stating that while not perfect, the legislation would “help defeat terrorism and keep America safe”.

He considered President Barack Obama's health reform legislation as unconstitutional and voted against the Affordable Care Act in December 2009 and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

In 2012, he faced his first primary competition since his election in 1976 and easily defeated former State Senator Dan Liljenquist before winning against Democrat and IBM executive Scott Howell in the general election.

In 2016, he introduced the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, which narrowed the broad authority of the DEA to suspend drug "manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers".

He supported former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential election, but eventually endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, in 2018.

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Family & Personal Life

Orrin Hatch married Elaine Hansen on August 28, 1957 and welcomed six children with her: sons Brent, Scott and Jess; and daughters, Marcia Whetton, Kimberly Catron and Alysa Whitlock.

He was survived by his wife and six children, 23 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren when he passed away at 88 from complications of a stroke on April 23, 2022 in Salt Lake City.


Orrin Hatch, who had interest in poetry and played instruments like piano, violin, and organ, composed many songs including “Unspoken”, which went platinum after appearing on “WOW Hits 2005”, a compilation of Christian pop music. He had a brief cameo alongside Chuck Grassley in Steven Soderbergh's 2000 Oscar-winning drama Traffic in a scene set during a Washington, D.C. cocktail party.

See the events in life of Orrin Hatch in Chronological Order

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