Legislature ends session with nod to senator

? The Legislature adjourned its 2003 session Thursday with the biggest item of business a tribute to the Senate’s eldest member.

In most years, the adjournment session is relatively brief, though nothing precludes lawmakers from passing bills or attempting to override gubernatorial vetoes. The ceremony is known as “sine die,” Latin for “without another day.”

The House convened for about 15 minutes, but the Senate remained in session nearly 45 minutes to consider congratulatory resolutions. The final one honored Sen. U.L. “Rip” Gooch, D-Wichita.

Gooch’s 80th birthday is Sept. 13, and he plans to celebrate with an all-day party and golf tournament in his hometown. The Senate resolution, adopted unanimously, honored him for his political career, as well as his 55 years as a pilot, which included operating his own aviation company.

His deskmate, Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, praised Gooch as a mentor and conscientious legislator. Gooch and Haley are the Senate’s only black members, and Haley recalled how Gooch and other blacks struggled for decades against prejudice.

“Thank you, sir, for your tenacity and your patience,” Haley said. “I love you, sir, because you are symbolic of our very best.”

Sen. Robert Tyson, R-Parker, a former TWA pilot, recalled that Gooch helped him buy his first plane as a young flier. Tyson said Gooch had helped many pilots and was well-regarded in the aviation industry. Gooch is a member of the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame.

“I honor him and salute him for that,” Tyson said.

Gooch, a native of Brownsville, Tenn., served four years on the Kansas Commission on Civil Rights in 1971-74 and was a member of the Wichita City Council in 1989-92. He was elected to the Senate in 1992 and re-elected in 1996 and 2000.

“He is truly one of my heroes,” said Majority Leader Lana Oleen, R-Manhattan.

“I’m very much impressed and surprised,” Gooch said. “Thank you all for what you’ve done.”