Robert Lawrence Coughlin – Captain, United States Marine Corps, Member of Congress

From a contemporary press report

R. Lawrence Coughlin Jr., 72, a moderate Pennsylvania Republican who from 1969 to 1993 represented the wealthy Main Line area of suburban Philadelphia in the House of Representatives, died of cancer November 30, 2001, at his weekend farm in Mathews, Virginia. He lived in Alexandria, Virginia.

Rep. Coughlin, a lawyer, was known for championing urban and mass-transit issues nationwide.

He served on the Judiciary Committee and on the Appropriations Committee, where he was the ranking Republican on the transportation subcommittee and the District subcommittee. He also was ranking Republican on the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.

On the District subcommittee, he was frequently critical of then-Mayor Marion Barry's leadership. At one hearing on the D.C. budget, he took Barry to task for “corruption and mismanagement” citywide.

He did not pursue reelection in 1992 and became senior counsel to Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott in Washington. In April, he joined the Washington office of the St. Louis-based Thompson Coburn law firm and concentrated on transportation and international-commerce matters.

He was on the board of the Friends of the U.S. National Arboretum, where he was a former president.

Robert Lawrence Coughlin Jr. was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and grew up on his father's farm near Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was a nephew of former representative Clarence D. Coughlin (R-Pa.).

The younger Rep. Coughlin was a 1946 graduate of the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., and a 1950 economics graduate of Yale University. He received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University.

He was a 1958 graduate of Temple University's law school, attending classes at night while a foreman on a steel assembly line during the day.

He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War and was aide-de-camp to Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller. Years later, in Congress, Rep. Coughlin chaired the Capitol Hill Marines, a group of congressmen who had been in the Marine Corps.

He was practicing law at a Philadelphia firm when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1964 and to the state Senate in 1966. He won his U.S. House seat in 1968, when Richard S. Schweiker (R) left to make a successful bid for the U.S. Senate.

A tall, slender man with a patrician air, Rep. Coughlin was known for wearing — and defending — bow ties. When a magazine writer said in the 1980s that men who wore bow ties were not to be trusted, Rep. Coughlin was quoted as saying, “I've never known one who wasn't trustworthy.”

His first wife, Helen Ford Swan Coughlin, died in the early 1950s. His marriage to Elizabeth Worrell Coughlin ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 21 years, Susan MacGregor Coughlin of Alexandria; a daughter from his first marriage, Lisa Coughlin Powell of Plymouth Meeting, Pa.; three children from his second marriage, Lynne Coughlin Samson of Wayne, Pa., Sara Coughlin Noon of Bel Air, Md., and R. Lawrence Coughlin III of Seattle; and five grandchildren.

Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Robert Lawrence Coughlin, (nephew of Clarence Dennis Coughlin), a Representative from Pennsylvania; born in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, April 11, 1929; A.B., Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1950; M.B.A., Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 1954; LL.B., Temple University Evening Law School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1958; lawyer, private practice; manufacturer; United States Marine Corps, 1950-1952; member of the Pennsylvania state house of representatives, 1965-1967; member of the Pennsylvania state senate, 1967-1969; elected as a Republican to the Ninety-first and to the eleven succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1969-January 3, 1993); was not a candidate for renomination to the One Hundred Third Congress in 1992; died on November 30, 2001, in Mathews, Virginia.

Congressman Coughlin will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on 20 December 2001.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/11/1929
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/30/2001

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