Bud lights 90 candles
Shuster reflects on life, milestone birthday
On the eve of his 90th birthday, the Mirror reached out to former U.S. Rep. E.G. “Bud” Shuster to catch up on what the retired congressman has been doing since he stepped out of the limelight and to get his perspective on politics then and now.
While Shuster is remembered — particularly in the business world — for his efforts to complete Interstate 99 from Bedford to State College, he prefers to say his legacy really is his large and loving family.
That family includes five children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and they will be throwing a party for him Saturday night. His birthday is Sunday.
Life after Congress
Shuster didn’t slow down after his 2001 retirement from Congress and continues to keep up-to-date with world happenings, particularly in his fields of expertise — transportation and intelligence.
He spent 11 years as a visiting professor at Saint Francis University.
He also served on the Board of Trustees at Saint Francis and at the University of Pittsburgh, where he attended college.
In addition, he was a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
He also mourned the loss of his wife of 60 years, Patricia, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 84.
Justin Harclerode, who served under both Bud and his son, Bill, said Bud remarried in 2019 to Darlene Johnston and the two spend time at their farms in Bedford and Fulton counties.
Always active — even when the temperature was 108 degrees, recalled a former aide — Shuster exercises every day, spending 100 minutes on a bike. He also continues to lift weights.
According to son Bill, Bud also plays the piano daily, enjoying music from diverse groups including Deep Purple, a British rock band, to songs like “Flight of the Bumblebee.”
“I’m pretty well settled into the farm and family,” Bud reported.
“I count my blessings every day about being an American,” he said.
But, he admitted, he still worries about the world and the possibility the wrong people or person may get a hold of a nuclear weapon.
“It’s a dangerous world,” he said.
Running in the heat
Bud lifting weights and cycling doesn’t surprise John McClintock, a former television journalist and owner of an advertising company who served as an aide to the former congressman during the 1980s.
McClintock said the congressman was “religious about ‘taking care of himself.'”
Shuster went to the House gym every morning, he said.
McClintock also remembered being in Dallas, where Shuster was helping to prepare the platform for the Republican National Convention prior to the Reagan-Bush years. The temperature was 108 degrees and Shuster took McClintock to the roof of the hotel for a run.
The congressman had calculated how many times he would have to run around the roof to reach a mile.
McClintock said he decided against running in the heat and jumped into a nearby pool.
Bud just kept running, he said.
McClintock respectfully called Shuster “Boss” rather than Bud, and he said his relatively short time with Shuster was “probably the most interesting year of my life.”
Shuster was a congressman who insisted on perfection, who strived to win elections in a big way, which meant by a vote of 55% or greater, and who had a philosophy that “when he wanted something to happen, he wanted it to happen.”
He described Shuster as loyal — to his party, his employees and his constituents.
McClintock pointed to one incident where an individual had written a letter critical of the congressman. Shuster contacted the constituent and talked to him until he “won the person back.”
He noted that Shuster, although a conservative, strived for bipartisanship in resolving issues.
Interstate 99 a priority
Resolving issues was a priority for Shuster, especially when it came to getting things done in his district.
Retired Blair County Commissioner Colson Jones worked hand-in-hand with Shuster for the completion of what eventually became I-99.
Altoona was among the few metropolitan areas in the nation not served by a four-lane highway and area leaders were distraught at the lack of determination at the state level to correct this perceived unfairness.
It was a battle to have Pennsylvania allocate money for what was to become I-99, and the breaking point came when PennDOT informed Jones that it did not intend to complete the road through Blair and Centre counties beyond 17th Street in Altoona.
McClintock in his comments explained that Shuster had mastered the art of how to “communicate without voice.”
The idea was to keep a low profile by following the philosophy: “Never write when you can say it; never say it when you can nod; never nod when you can wink and never wink when you can stare,” he said.
Shuster in following this low-key philosophy let the light shine on people like Congressman Newt Gingerich, who became Speaker of the House when the Republicans eventually gained control of Congress.
Allowing others to be in the spotlight placed Shuster in a good position when the Republicans assumed control of Congress.
Shuster was given a choice — whether to become chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee or the House Intelligence Committee.
He selected the transportation committee and was in position to eventually get the money for the completion of I-99.
Jones working at the state level and Shuster at the federal level worked to complete the road and Jones believes that the I-99 project will be Shuster’s legacy.
“Bud Shuster really put us on the map as far as highways are concerned,” he said.
“He put us way ahead. He was responsible for a lot of businesses that came in,” said Jones, who is now 93 years old.
He loved the Intelligence Committee as well
Shuster, in referring to those times, noted that he, at one point in his life, was a counterintelligence agent in the army and he had “great love” for the Intelligence Committee, but he decided to serve as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee because of its widespread (nationwide) importance.
He said the committee was not just about highways and noted he worked with Joe Paterno to upgrade the University Park Airport so opposing teams could fly to State College.
He also helped to upgrade the Bedford County airport.
The committee, he said, was responsible for roads, bridges, airports, waterways, flood control and many other issues.
Despite the importance of the infrastructure committee, Shuster said he remained on the Intelligence Committee as a senior member of Congress.
As a member of the Intelligence Committee, he became involved in U.S. efforts to counter communist intrusions into other nations by supporting the Mujahideen against the Russians in Afghanistan, the efforts of the Contras in Nicaragua and Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi, who eventually renounced communism.
Shuster served in Congress for 30 years and when he retired, his son, Bill, ran for the job and served another six terms representing what was then Pennsylvania’s 9th District.
Bud Shuster said he was proud of his son, who eventually was chosen as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee over four other members with greater seniority.
Looking at Congress and the government as it operates in Washington these days, he said, “is sad.”
He clarified, saying the unending vitriol in Congress today represents a sharp turn from the past.
“We were bipartisan. We fought, we’d be having a battle on the floor (of the House). We disagreed, but when the vote was over, we’d walk across the aisle and shake hands.”