Harold Caskey, often described as one of the smartest members of the Missouri Senate for many years, died Thursday at 77, Gov. Jay Nixon announced.
Caskey, of Butler, served 28 years in the Missouri Senate in the era before term limits put an end to such lengthy careers in Jefferson City.
Regarded as a conservative Democrat, Caskey clashed with more liberal members of his party before he retired in 2004.
“Throughout his life, Harold Caskey was a true champion for the people of west-central Missouri and for working men and women all across our state,” Nixon said in a statement. “As a state senator, Harold’s leadership and depth of legislative knowledge had a real and positive impact on the lives of his constituents and helped guide many of his colleagues, including me, during my six years in the Senate.”
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Nixon noted that Caskey, a lawyer, never allowed his blindness to undermine his service to the state.
“Harold’s intelligence, sense of humor and dedication to public service inspired us all,” Nixon said.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a fellow Democrat who served in the General Assembly with Caskey, described him as a special man.
“Whip smart, strategic, loyal, & secretly a sweet softie,” she wrote on Twitter. “I learned so much from him.”
Roy Temple, chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, who served in Gov. Mel Carnahan’s administration, ticked off a series of Caskey’s accomplishments in a Facebook post, including his work on the Outstanding Schools Act of 1993, the A+ scholarships and a retirement system for county officials.
Temple also cited Caskey’s impact on the state’s criminal justice system “in ways large and small.”
“Harold never let his blindness prevent him from tackling any challenge presented to him,” Temple wrote. “He possessed a keen legal mind and a formidable wit.”
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a fellow Democrat, called Caskey a “giant of the Missouri Senate.”