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Former Governor F. Ray Keyser Dead At 87

Toby Talbot
Former Vermont Gov. F. Ray Keyser, shown here in 2011, was the youngest person elected governor of the state at age 34. He died Saturday at his daughter's home in Brandon; he was 87.

Vermont's 72nd governor, F. Ray Keyser, has died.

Republican F. Ray Keyser, Jr. was a native Vermonter, born in Chelsea. In 1961 he became the youngest person ever elected governor at age 34.  

Keyser's 1962 defeat by a Democrat was seen as a turning point in the state's transition from one of the nation's most conservative states to one of the most liberal. His defeat by Democrat Phil Hoff ended 109 years of Republican control of the Vermont governor's office.

Keyser died Saturday at his daughter's home in Brandon.

Gov. Peter Shumlin called Keyser "a faithful public servant who showed his love for this state and its people."

Shumlin has ordered that flags at all state and public buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of Keyser.

Keyser served three terms in the Vermont House of Representatives and was Speaker of the House before he was elected governor in 1961. He was born in Chelsea and his father was a Vermont Supreme Court Justice.

"He was at the end of a string of 109 years of uninterrupted Republican governors and ever since then we've had governor's of alternating parties, so it was a time of great political change in the state," said former Republican Governor Jim Douglas.

Douglas said it wasn't just the governor's race that showed the state was becoming more bipartisan.  Vermont had elected a Democratic Congressman a few years earlier. Hoff benefited from a split in the Republican party at the time.

After leaving office, Keyser led the Vermont Marble Company and Central Vermont Public Service, and he was active in many other organizations.

Douglas called him a mentor and a friend, "He had a little of Calvin Coolidge in him I think because he didn't talk a lot, but when he had something to say it was important," Douglas said.  

Keyser was 87 years old.