Military Wiki
William L. Armstrong
President of Colorado Christian University

In office
August 2006 – July 5, 2016
Preceded by Larry Donnithorne
Succeeded by Donald W. Sweeting
United States Senator
from Colorado

In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1991
Preceded by Floyd Haskell
Succeeded by Hank Brown
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Ken Kramer
Personal details
Born William Lester Armstrong
(1937-03-16)March 16, 1937
Fremont, Nebraska, U.S.
Died July 5, 2016(2016-07-05) (aged 79)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Resting place Fairmount Cemetery
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ellie M. Eaton
Children 2
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1957–1963
Rank First Lieutenant
Unit Army National Guard

William Lester Armstrong (March 16, 1937 – July 5, 2016) was an American businessman, administrator, and politician. He was a member of the Republican Party and served as a United States Representative and Senator from Colorado.[1] Armstrong died from cancer at the age of 79 on July 5, 2016.[2]

Early life and career

Armstrong was born March 16, 1937, in Fremont, Nebraska, and graduated from Lincoln Northeast High School.[3] He was the son of William L. Armstrong, Sr. and Dorothy Steen Armstrong. His maternal grandfather was a Presbyterian minister[4] and his great-great-uncle, Alexander Majors, was the co-founder of the Pony Express,[5][6] the Central Overland California, and Pike's Peak Express Company.[7]

Professional career

Armstrong became fascinated as a child with radio,[8] and at the age of eleven, he interviewed with a local radio station in Fremont and was given his own show on weekends to practice his DJ skills.

After high school, he met Todd Storz, known as the father of the Top 40 radio format. He hired Armstrong at KOWH in Omaha, Nebraska, then transferred him to WTIX in New Orleans, where he became America's first teenage Top 40 disc jockey.[9][10] While there, he briefly attended Tulane University,[11] but two years later, in 1956, he moved to Minneapolis to work at WDGY. There he took classes at the University of Minnesota but did not earn a degree. Within a few months, he was appointed Program Director at the radio station, at the age of 20. He then chose to enlist in the Colorado Army National Guard from 1957 to 1963, where he became a First Lieutenant.

After returning from duty at age 22 in 1959, Armstrong bought radio station KOSI-AM in Aurora, Colorado, which became KEZW in 1981.[12][13] Armstrong founded KOSI-FM in 1968 before selling both the KOSI-AM and KOSI-FM stations 25 years later.[14][15] He also was president of Ambassador Media,[16] which owned television station KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho and satellite stations KKVI in Twin Falls, Idaho and KJVI in Jackson, Wyoming.[12][14][17][18]

Political career

In 1962, Armstrong married Ellen M. Eaton. The same year, he became the (at the time) youngest person ever elected to the Colorado House of Representatives,[19] where he served one term.[20] He then served in the Colorado State Senate from 1964 to 1972, including two terms as President of the Senate.[21] In 1972, Armstrong was elected to the U.S. Congress from the new fifth district. He was reelected to the 94th and 95th Congresses.[22]

In 1978, Armstrong was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating former astronaut Jack Swigert in the GOP primary in September,[23] and Democratic incumbent Floyd Haskell in November. He and Swigert became good friends and Armstrong was with the former astronaut when he died from cancer in December 1982.[24][25] Reelected in 1984, he served in the Senate for twelve years. Armstrong served on the Banking, Finance, and Budget Committees, and was noted for his successful effort to index personal income tax rates to the rate of inflation.[26] Majority Leader Robert 'Bob' Dole later referred to Armstrong as “the father of tax indexing".[27] In 1980, Armstrong actively worked to make GI Bill benefits permanent for U.S. military personnel.[28] In February 1982, Senator Armstrong, alongside Congressman Carlos Moorhead sponsored the resolution S.J. Res 165 authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim 1983 as the “Year of the Bible”.[29][30][31] President Ronald Reagan implemented the resolution as Public Law 97-280. Following the formal designation of 1983 being the Year of the Bible, Armstrong served on the newly created National Committee to help focus attention on the year-long observance.

In 1983, Armstrong chaired the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security,[32] and served on the National Commission on Social Security Reform,[33] which was created to find solutions to the long-term financing of the program. He was the only Commission member to vote against its final 1983 report because it failed to include any change in the eligible retirement age, though his view prevailed in the final legislation enacted by Congress.[34] Also in 1983, Armstrong wrote the foreword to Daniel O. Graham's book on Project High Frontier, "We Must Defend America and Put an End to MADness." In the foreword, Armstrong criticizes the U.S. policy of Mutual Assured Destruction and advocates for a new policy, specifically that advocated by Project High Frontier, for defense against the Soviet Union's Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.[35]

During his time in office, Senator Armstrong worked on welfare reform.[36] He supported the passage of the Family Support Act 1988, the first change in welfare rules in 50 years.[37] Working with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Governors Bill Clinton (D-AR), and Mike Castle (R-DE), the final bill passed the Senate by a vote of 93–3.[38] The new law imposed work requirements (16 hours/week) on able-bodied welfare recipients for the first time.[39] The bill also extended welfare benefits for unemployed 2-parent families and included the child support enforcement provision backed by Armstrong, a requirement for minor parents to be in school,[40] and a screening process intended to reduce fraudulent claims.[41]

In 1985, one of Armstrong's strong symbolic achievements[42] was the Korean War Veterans Memorial Act, which he introduced.[43] He sponsored the Senate bill to authorize the privately funded memorial, which passed in 1986.[44] After its passage, he participated in numerous fund-raising efforts over the next decade, working closely with long-time friend and Korean War veteran, Congressman Mike McKevitt.[45] The last bill Armstrong introduced before retiring from the Senate authorized the U.S. Mint to issue a silver dollar commemorating the war's 38th anniversary,[46] with proceeds from sales (which eventually totaled over $22 million) helping finance the memorial.[47] The bill passed and was sent to the President just three days before Armstrong's farewell speech to the Senate.[48][49] Senator Armstrong opposed congressional pay raises and was critical of Senators who voted to raise pay, or on one occasion allowed a 50% pay raise to take effect without a vote.[50] He was also noted in the early 1980s for sponsorship of a landmark soil conservation measure known as the “Sodbuster bill,”[51][52] which denied federal subsidies for plowing fragile grasslands. It was adopted as part of the 1985 Farm Bill.

He was the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee (99th through 101st Congresses);[53] he opted to retire and did not seek reelection in 1990.[54][55]

Throughout 1986, there was considerable speculation about Armstrong running for President in 1988.[56][57]

Election results


United States House of Representatives elections, 1972[58]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Bill Armstrong 104,214 62.3
Democratic Byron L. Johnson 60,948 36.5
Libertarian Pipp M. Boyls 2,028 1.2
Total votes 167,190 100.0
Republican win (new seat)


United States House of Representatives elections, 1974[59]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Bill Armstrong (incumbent) 85,326 57.73
Democratic Ben Galloway 56,888 38.49
Independent Stan Johnson 5,580 3.78
Total votes 147,794 100.0
Republican hold


United States House of Representatives elections, 1976[60]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Bill Armstrong (incumbent) 126,784 66.43
Democratic Dorothy Hores 64,067 33.57
Total votes 190,851 100.0
Republican hold


1978 United States Senate election in Colorado[61]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican William L. Armstrong 480,801 58.7%
Democratic Floyd Haskell (Incumbent) 330,148 40.3%
United States Party Vedder V. Dorn 5,789 0.7%
National Statesman John Shue 2,518 0.3%
Voter turnout %
Republican gain from Democratic


1984 United States Senate election in Colorado[62]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican William L. Armstrong 833,821 64.25%
Democratic Nancy E. Dick 449,327 34.62%
Libertarian Craig Green 11,077 0.85%
Socialist Workers David Martin 2,208 0.17%
Prohibition Earl Higgerson 1,376 0.11%
Turnout 1,297,809

Personal life


In the 1970s, Armstrong experienced a religious conversion. After that experience, he said, he became “more tolerant of other people’s opinions”[55] and “didn’t believe being a politician and a Christian were mutually exclusive”.[63] He then began 40 years of active involvement in Evangelicalism in the United States.

In 1982, he served as the general chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast,[64] and alongside President Ronald Reagan, delivered the keynote address at the 1988 National Prayer breakfast.[65] Speaking at religious gatherings, he often related the story of how a stranger came to see him in the Capitol and led him to the four spiritual laws. The four spiritual laws are based on the famous booklet by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. He held daily Bible studies with his family, began leading meetings with prayers, and shared his experience very publicly.[66] Within congress, colleagues called Armstrong for legislative support as well as spiritual guidance.[63] He believed his political and cultural undertakings were “vulcanized” inseparably to his Christian faith.[67] He was a part of the Family Channel, Christian Businessmen's Committee, Trinity forum, Christian Embassy, The Calling, & Charles Colson's Prison Ministries.[68] He was on the Board of Directors of Campus Crusade for Christ for 15 years.[69]


With his wife, he had two children, Wil Armstrong and Anne Sellman.[70] Armstrong died from cancer at the age of 79 in 2016.[12]

Academic career

Armstrong was President of Colorado Christian University at the time of his death, having served in that position since 2006. During his tenure as president, Armstrong became well known for his catchphrase "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." His involvement in Christian organizations and the national evangelical movement became a notable aspect of his legacy and his impact on others. While President, he supported the creation of “The Calling” ministry in 2010.[71] Although he eventually held eight honorary degrees, he never finished college.[72]


  1. "William L. Armstrong". NNDB. 
  2. "Former U.S. senator, university president Bill Armstrong has died" (in en-US). 2016-07-06. 
  3. Elliott, Dan (2016). "William Armstrong, ex-US senator for Colorado, dies at 79". Associated Press. 
  4. "The Steen Family in Europe and America". Moses D.A. Steen. Cincinnati: Monfort and Company, 1917
  5. "Alexander Majors | American businessman" (in en). 
  6. Pony Express & Overland Stage - Wagner, Albin (1977). Adams County: Crossroads of the West. Volume 2. Denver, Colorado: Board of County Commissioners, Adams County. pages 18–19.
  7. Wagner, Albin (1977). "Pony Express & Overland Stage Adams County: Crossroads of the West". Denver, Colorado. pp. 18–19. 
  8. Richard Fatherly, David MacFarland (2014). "The Birth of Top 40 Radio Jefferson". North Carolina: McFarland & Co.. p. 38. 
  9. Fatherly, Richard (2004). "William L. Armstrong and The Origin Of The Top 40 Format". ReelRadio. 
  10. Colorado Christian University (2016). "Bill Armstrong Obituary". Colorado: Christian Colorado University. 
  11. "Former U.S. senator, university president Bill Armstrong has died". The Denver Post. 6 July 2016. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Elliott, Dan (July 6, 2016). "William Armstrong, ex-US senator for Colorado, dies at 79". Associated Press. 
  13. "William Armstrong, ex-US senator for Colorado, dies at 79". 2016-07-06. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Remembering Bill Armstrong". KOSI. July 11, 2016. 
  15. "Bill Armstrong Obituary" (in en). 
  16. Group Ownership. R.R. Bowker. 1995. p. A-98. ISBN 0835236013. 
  17. Richard Fatherly & David MacFarland, The Birth of Top 40 Radio Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2014, p. 38.
  18. "William L. "Bill" Armstrong, 1937-2016". Colorado Christian University. 
  19. Institute, Centennial (2016). "Western Conservative summit: A Tribute to Will Armstrong". Centennial Institute. 
  20. Elliot, Dan (2016). "William Armstrong, ex-US senator for Colorado, dies at 79". Associated Press. 
  21. President Armstrong Announces Retirement
  22. "Sen. William Armstrong". 
  23. "Primaries kind to most incumbents". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). September 13, 1978. p. A-1. 
  24. "Apollo 13 astronaut dies at 51". Pittsburgh Press. December 28, 1982. p. A-9. 
  25. Treaster, Joseph B. (December 29, 1982). "Jack Swigert, astronaut elected to Congress, dies". 
  26. "(Indexing additional sources - Congressional Record July 5, 1981, page 15771; page 15781; Armstrong's primary speech during the debate on pages 15788-15792. Congressional Record July 16, 1981, pages 16121-16122; page 16138. Congressional Record, July 23, 1981, Page 17075. Congressional record, July 27, 1981, page 17508; page 17656. Congressional Record, July 19, 1981, pages 17967-17968.)". 
  27. "Congressional Record, October 27, 1990, page 36277" (in en). 
  28. William L. Armstrong, speech to Air Force Association, Washington Sheraton Hotel, 9/16/80
  29. "MEMORIALIZING FORMER SENATOR WILLIAM L. ARMSTRONG". House of Representatives of the Seventy-first General Assembly of the State of Colorado. 2017. 
  30. "Public Law 97-280 97th Congress Joint Resolution Authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim 1983 as the "Year of the Bible"". CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 128 (1982): Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America. October 4, 1982. p. 1. 
  31. Reagan, President Ronald (October 4, 1982). "PUBLIC LAW 97-280 OCT. 4, 1982 Public Law 97-280 96 STAT. 1211 97th Congress". National Liberty Alliance. pp. 1–2. 
  32. John Svahn, Mary Ross (April 20, 1983). "Social Security Amendments of 1983: Legislative history and Summary of Provisions". p. 48, Appendix C: Membership of the National Commission on Social Security Reform. 
  34. "Social Security History". 
  35. Graham, Daniel O. (1983). We Must Defend America and Put an End to MADness. Chicago: Regnery Gateway. pp. 5–10. 
  36. Sheard, Vanessa (1998). "Race, Gender and Welfare Reform: The Elusive Quest for Self-Determination". Garland Publishing. pp. 67–72. 
  37. Bentson, Lloyd. "Reforming the Welfare System: The Family Support Act of 1988". 
  38. Moynihan, Daniel Patrick (1988-06-16). "Actions - S.1511 - 100th Congress (1987-1988): Family Security Act of 1988". 
  39. "Text of H.R. 1720 (100th): Family Support Act of 1988 (Passed Congress version) 102 Stat. 2376" (in en). 
  40. "Text of H.R. 1720 (100th): Family Support Act of 1988 (Passed Congress version) 102 Stat. 2358" (in en). 
  41. "The Family Support Act of 1988". p. 17. 
  42. Barker, Hall (May 27, 1985). ""An Honor Long Overdue," William L. Armstrong". Washington Times. Dallas, Texas, USA. 
  43. Armstrong, William L. (1986-09-17). "S.1223 - 99th Congress (1985-1986): Korean War Veterans Memorial Act of 1985". 
  44. Armstrong, William L. (1986-09-17). "Actions - S.1223 - 99th Congress (1985-1986): Korean War Veterans Memorial Act of 1985". 
  45. "Congressman James D. 'Mike' McKevitt, 71, Dies". The Washington Post. September 30, 2000. 
  46. Armstrong, William L. (1990-10-31). "S.2737 - 101st Congress (1989-1990): Korean War Veterans Memorial Thirty-Eighth Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act". 
  47. Armstrong, William L. (1990-10-31). "S.2737 - 101st Congress (1989-1990): Korean War Veterans Memorial Thirty-Eighth Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act". 
  48. Armstrong, William (June 14, 1990). "S.2737 - Korean War Veterans Memorial Thirty-Eighth Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act". Congress.Gov. 
  49. "PUBLIC LAW 101-495—OCT. 31, 1990 104 STAT. 1187 Public Law 101-495 101st Congress". 1990. 
  50. Machado, Lohanna (2018-12-20). "Entrevista com Piers Armstrong". pp. 36–39. Digital object identifier:10.11606/issn.2525-8133.opiniaes.2018.152879. ISSN 2525-8133. 
  51. Armstrong, Bill (2016-06-03). "News From Bill Armstrong: ARMSTRONG REINTRODUCES SODBUSTER BILL, ENLISTS 19 COSPONSORS, March 3, 1983". 
  52. Walcher, Greg. "Plowing New Ground on Old Issues | The American Spectator | Politics Is Too Important To Be Taken Seriously." (in en). 
  53. Malone, Julia (November 29, 1984). "GOP taps moderate Dole for leader". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  54. "Sen. Armstrong of Colorado Says He Will Not Run Again" (Section A). The New York Times. Associated Press. February 14, 1989. p. 19. 
  55. 55.0 55.1 Elliott, Dan (2016-07-07). "William L. Armstrong, Republican senator from Colorado, dies at 79" (in en-US). Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. 
  56. "Space research at Denver". November 1965. pp. 86. Digital object identifier:10.1063/1.3047017. ISSN 0031-9228. 
  57. "Meetings in the Rocky Mountain Region". 1980. pp. 86–89. Digital object identifier:10.1353/rmr.1980.0037. ISSN 1948-2833. 
  58. 1972 Election Results
  59. 1974 Election Results
  60. 1976 Election Results
  61. Clerk of the House of Representatives, Henshaw Jr., Edmund L. (November 7, 1978). "Statistics of Congressional Elections". pp. 5. 
  62. Colorado Secretary of State, Meyer, Natalie (September 11, 1984). "STATE OF COLORADO STRACT OF VOTES CAST 1984". pp. 32. 
  63. 63.0 63.1 "Bill Armstrong: Senator & Christian" (in en). 
  64. "Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the Congress: 43rd Congress, 4 March 1873-". Digital object identifier:10.1163/2468-1733_shafr_sim010020026. 
  65. "President Ronald Reagan National Prayer Breakfast 1988" (in en). 
  66. Fulcher, Michelle P.. "Former Senator Bill Armstrong Blended Conservative Politics And Evangelical Christianity" (in en). 
  67. John Andrews (2016-07-08). "The Bill Armstrong I knew" (in en-US). 
  68. "Armstrong Legacy" (in en). 
  69. "Greetings from the President". Colorado Christian University. 
  70. "William Armstrong, Conservative Voice in Senate, Dies at 79" (in en-US). The New York Times. 2016-07-06. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  71. "Our History – The Calling" (in en-US). 
  72. Bunch, Joey (July 22, 2016). "Former U.S. senator, university president Bill Armstrong has died". 

External links

United States House of Representatives
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Colorado's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Ken Kramer
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gordon L. Allott
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Colorado
(Class 2)

1978, 1984
Succeeded by
Hank Brown
Preceded by
John Tower
Chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee
Succeeded by
Don Nickles
United States Senate
Preceded by
Floyd K. Haskell
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Colorado
Served alongside: Gary Hart, Tim Wirth
Succeeded by
Hank Brown
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Larry Donnithorne
President of Colorado Christian University
Succeeded by
Donald W. Sweeting

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