Bill Barrett, a conservative Nebraska Republican who helped shape the nation’s farm policy during his decade in Congress, died Sept. 20 at an assisted-living center in Lexington, Neb. He was 87.
Reynolds-Love Funeral Home in Lexington confirmed the death but did not provide the cause.
Mr. Barrett was outspoken on farm issues and helped write the Freedom to Farm Act in 1996 that limited farm subsidies. He also tried to keep the federal government out of local water rights issues during his five terms representing the western two-thirds of Nebraska.
Mr. Barrett served in the U.S. House from 1991 through 2000 — and he visited each of his district’s 66 counties annually, to keep a campaign promise. Before his terms in Congress, he spent 12 years in the Nebraska Legislature, his final four years as speaker.
When he left office, he encouraged others to consider public service because the work could be rewarding — but it was clear he was frustrated with the strident partisanship of Washington.
“When I weigh all the pros and cons of this job, I’ve decide that I’m at a point in my life where I’d rather start my day with ‘Good morning, Grandpa’ instead of ‘Good morning, Congressman,’ ” Mr. Barrett said when he announced his retirement in 1999.
Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat, said Mr. Barrett was known for seeking consensus and compromise. In addition to serving in Congress together, Kerrey worked with Mr. Barrett to balance Nebraska’s budget when Kerrey was governor and Mr. Barrett was speaker of the Legislature.
William Barrett was born in Lexington on Feb. 9, 1929. He was a 1951 business administration graduate of Hastings College in Nebraska. He served in the Navy during the Korean War, then worked in the admissions office at Hastings before returning to Lexington in 1956 to join his family’s general insurance, real estate brokerage and appraising firm, Barrett-Housel & Associates.
He also served on the Republican National Committee during the 1960s and served as state GOP chairman.
Mr. Barrett and his wife, Elsie, had four children.
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