AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – 22News has received word that former western Massachusetts U.S. Representative John Olver has died.

According to an online obituary, Olver died at his home in Amherst on Thursday, February 23, aged 86. He was born in Pennsylvania and taught chemistry at UMass Amherst for eight years before resigning to go into politics in 1969.

Olver had a long career in state and national politics. He served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from the 2nd Hampshire District from January 1969-January 1973, the Massachusetts Senate from the Franklin and Hampshire District from January 1973- June 1991, and U.S. House of Representatives for the Massachusetts 1st District from June 1991- January 2013.

Olver chose not to run again in 2012. Most of his district at that time had been eliminated through redistricting after the 2010 census.

Governor Maura Healey sent the following statement on Olver’s passing, “Congressman John Olver dedicated his life to serving the people of Western and Central Massachusetts and always stayed true to his values. He was a strong advocate for affordable health care, abortion access, public transportation and rural communities. I will always be grateful for his kindness and his friendship. He will be dearly missed, and my heart goes out to his loved ones.” 

In a news release sent to 22News, Congressman James McGovern confirmed Olver’s passing and released this statement:

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the death of my friend and longtime colleague, Congressman John Olver. A humble public servant with the heart of an activist, John was truly a champion for the people of Western and Central Massachusetts. His quiet demeanor and wry sense of humor concealed a razor-sharp understanding of the issues facing the American people and a deep faith in our ability to solve them together.

“Jon and I were arrested together twice while protesting the genocide in Darfur outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. The first time I asked him, I noted that we would likely be arrested and spend hours in jail. He agreed right away—his conscience would allow no less. The second time, I didn’t have to ask. John knew what was right and just did it. It was an honor to share a cell with him. His integrity and support of human rights remains a source of great inspiration for me and so many others around the world.

“Closer to home, John’s track record of accomplishments speaks for itself—on issues from clean energy to environmental protection to public transportation, he was a workhorse who went above and beyond to get the job done. Lisa and I extend our deepest condolences to his daughter Martha and join those across the Commonwealth and the country who mourn his loss.”

Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA)

Congressman Richard Neal also sent a statement on Olver, saying “John Olver dedicated his life to public service, working as an educator at the University of Massachusetts before beginning his political career, including twelve years in the Massachusetts Legislature prior to his election to Congress. Over the course of his twenty-two years in the U.S. House of Representatives, John was an effective leader and steadfast advocate for the people of western and central Massachusetts. His approach to policymaking was a good lesson for those in public life. He lacked any malice and had the purest of intentions, focusing solely on delivering for the people he felt privileged to represent.”

A memorial service is planned for Sunday, April 16, 2023 at the John W. Olver Design Building on the UMass Amherst campus.