The Delightful Ernie Chambers Leaves the Nebraska Unicameral

| Fri Apr. 18, 2008 2:10 PM EDT

ernie_265x270.jpg The national treasure that is Ernie Chambers is leaving the Nebraska unicameral state legislature after 38 years.

Capitol regulars cried in the halls and fellow state senators gushed with praise for Ernie Chambers' service as the self-proclaimed "defender of the downtrodden."
But the Omaha senator wasn't in any mood to reminisce on Thursday, his last day on the legislative floor he prowled for 38 years. He was a reluctant, mostly absent, observer of his own legislative funeral and mostly spent the day like he has thousands of others since first being elected in 1970 — working....
Chambers logged more years as a state senator than anyone in Nebraska history. And while term limits won't officially push the muscled 70-year-old and state's only black senator out of his cluttered Capitol office until the end of the year, he's done making, and mostly stopping, laws for the state.
"He has just been a stalwart in making sure people get justice and that justice is administered fairly," said Sen. DiAnna Schimek of Lincoln, one of the 14 other senators who won't return next year because of term limits.
"Nobody's paid in the lobby to speak out on behalf of people on death row, for black youth, for poor kids," said Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha. "Ultimately, the downtrodden will be defended by our conscience, and Ernie is a man of conscience, a man of determination."

A hellraiser in Mother Jones' own tradition, Chambers was able to inspire solemn reverence even in ever-snarky bloggers like this one. He'll be missed.