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Former Governor F. Ray Keyser Dead At 87

Toby Talbot
Former Vermont Gov. F. Ray Keyser, shown here in 2011, was the youngest person elected governor of the state at age 34. He died Saturday at his daughter's home in Brandon; he was 87.

Vermont's 72nd governor, F. Ray Keyser, has died.

Republican F. Ray Keyser, Jr. was a native Vermonter, born in Chelsea. In 1961 he became the youngest person ever elected governor at age 34.  

Keyser's 1962 defeat by a Democrat was seen as a turning point in the state's transition from one of the nation's most conservative states to one of the most liberal. His defeat by Democrat Phil Hoff ended 109 years of Republican control of the Vermont governor's office.

Keyser died Saturday at his daughter's home in Brandon.

Gov. Peter Shumlin called Keyser "a faithful public servant who showed his love for this state and its people."

Shumlin has ordered that flags at all state and public buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of Keyser.

Keyser served three terms in the Vermont House of Representatives and was Speaker of the House before he was elected governor in 1961. He was born in Chelsea and his father was a Vermont Supreme Court Justice.

"He was at the end of a string of 109 years of uninterrupted Republican governors and ever since then we've had governor's of alternating parties, so it was a time of great political change in the state," said former Republican Governor Jim Douglas.

Douglas said it wasn't just the governor's race that showed the state was becoming more bipartisan.  Vermont had elected a Democratic Congressman a few years earlier. Hoff benefited from a split in the Republican party at the time.

After leaving office, Keyser led the Vermont Marble Company and Central Vermont Public Service, and he was active in many other organizations.

Douglas called him a mentor and a friend, "He had a little of Calvin Coolidge in him I think because he didn't talk a lot, but when he had something to say it was important," Douglas said.  

Keyser was 87 years old.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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