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Politics & Government

Family, Friends Gather to Remember Former Gov. George Leader

Family, friends and fixtures of state politics are remembering former Pennsylvania Gov. George Leader for being a tireless tinkerer — a man inspired by new ideas and always ready to go on to the next thing.

Leader died at age 95 last week. At a memorial service Thursday in Hershey, Dauphin County, his children recounted stories of their father and poked fun at his memory, at turns resisting and then contributing to a growing legend about one of the state’s most beloved governors.

His daughter Jane mentioned her father’s most recent participation in the Corbett administration’s effort to overhaul the state prison system.  

"And it was so great to see him energized and handling press conferences and Patriot-News interviews like the pro that he was," she said. "I felt like I was getting a little glimpse of the man who had been the governor when I was just a toddler. And we both felt so elated when not one but two bills passed unanimously to promote reform."

Leader was the state’s second-youngest governor, serving when he was 37 years old when he took office in 1955.

He's known for overhauling the state’s mental health system and selecting a cabinet based on professional credentials and not political favors, as well as professionalizing thousands of civil service jobs.

Perhaps his most widely unpopular move was enacting a state sales tax to fill the commonwealth’s deficit, something he had campaigned against and later said may have cost him the U.S. Senate race he ran at the end of his four-year term as governor.

Family and friends will hold a private burial a later date.