Sen. Richard Marvel

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Return to Notable Former Nebraska Legislators

Richard Marvel

Hastings Sen. Richard Marvel finished his 28 years in the Legislature as the first legislator in Nebraska history to hold the Speaker's office for two terms.

When he was first elected to the post in 1979, he was thought to be quiet and introverted. By the end of his first session as Speaker, his colleagues revered him as a strong leader who facilitated efficient legislation.

"I like the job," Marvel said at the time. "I never worked so hard in my life, but I enjoy working with legislators on major issues and getting them to sit down and talk."

Marvel was known for taking the Speaker position beyond its traditionally honorary role. He took steps to establish his authority by warning senators and powerful lobbyists that he would not tolerate maneuvering or delay tactics. He also required lawmakers to inform him a day beforehand if they wanted something included on the daily agenda.

The Unicameral needed a strong Speaker to help streamline the legislative process and prove that the one-house system is superior to bicameral systems used in the remaining 49 states, Marvel said.

Marvel was first elected to the Legislature in 1950 and, except for a four-year break in the mid-1950s after his father died, was re-elected every term thereafter until he resigned in 1982.

Marvel also was a college professor. He taught at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln for 15 years. He was known as a teacher who combined the theoretical with the practical, often inviting other senators, officials and lobbyists to speak to his classes.

"Teaching and being in the Legislature gave me a certain vantage point that made me see that it was very important to involve the people in government, to do everything you can to make the people understand what's going on," he said.

Former Gov. Charles Thone praised Marvel for helping modernize state government by advocating the creation of the Legislative Fiscal Office in 1961 and the state Department of Administrative Services in 1965.

Marvel was born Dec. 8, 1917, in Hastings. He attended the University of Leipzig in Germany and earned his bachelor's degree from Hastings College in 1940. He served in the South Pacific Theater during World War II and later earned his master's degree and doctorate in political science from the University of Nebraska. He died Dec. 2, 1986.

Sources: Lincoln Journal, The Lincoln Star and Nebraska Blue Book