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Donald Rumsfeld launched political career in Valley

The former U.S. secretary of Defense died Tuesday at 88

In this April 1969 file photo, President Richard M. Nixon announces in Washington the appointment of Rep. Donald Rumsfeld, left, of Illinois, as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and as a presidential assistant with cabinet rank. Rumsfeld, the two-time defense secretary and one-time presidential candidate, died Tuesday, June 29, 2021. He was 88. (AP Photo, File)

Jennie Dennison-Budak remembers former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who got his political start working in the Mahoning Valley for her father, as intelligent, impressive and good-natured.

“He was an extremely affable and kind person,” said Dennison-Budak of Hubbard. “He listened actively and made you the center of the universe. I was not surprised by his success.”

Rumsfeld died Tuesday at the age of 88.

Dennison-Budak said after her father, David S. Dennison, was elected to the U.S. House in 1956 as a Republican, he asked a few Ivy League schools for references to hire an administrative assistant.

One of the names he received was Rumsfeld, who graduated in 1954 from Princeton and had just gotten out of the Navy as a pilot.

“They hit it off immediately, and my father hired him,” Dennison-Budak said. “They remained friends throughout my father’s life. My dad thought very highly of him.”

Dennison died in 2001.

When Dennison ran for re-election in 1958, he hired Rumsfeld as his campaign manager.

“He was living with us during the campaign,” Dennison-Budak said. “I knew him as a 5-, 6-year-old and as a younger person. He was always fun to talk to as a child. He was good-natured and kind.”

Dennison’s district included Trumbull, Ashtabula and other northeast counties.

Two of Rumsfeld’s children, Valerie and Marcy, were born while he lived in Warren, Dennison-Budak said.

Dennison lost his re-election in 1958 to Democrat Robert E. Cook and also lost a 1960 rematch to Cook.

After the 1958 election, Rumsfeld moved back to Chicago, where he was born, and in 1962, he was elected to the House at the age of 30.

Dennison later worked for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and was a member of the Federal Trade Commission from 1970 to 1974.

Dennison-Budak said her father and Rumsfeld stayed close through the years.

“They had a very warm relationship,” she said.

The two worked in the President Richard Nixon administration — Dennison on the FTC and Rumsfeld as the head of the Office of Economic Opportunity and then as a counselor before being appointed ambassador to NATO.

Rumsfeld would later be appointed chief of staff and secretary of defense by President Gerald Ford.

Rumsfeld was also named defense secretary in 2001 by President George W. Bush, a position he held until his 2006 resignation under pressure.

He oversaw the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, claiming there were weapons of mass destruction in the latter country though none were ever found.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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