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Steve Roberts, former chair of Iowa Republican Party, dies


Steve Roberts, a partner in a Des Moines law firm and former Iowa Republican Party state chair, died Saturday. He was 81.

Roberts, a graduate of Des Moines’ Roosevelt High School, Princeton University and Michigan Law School, specialized in business law and state tax at the law firm of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors and Roberts PC, which he joined in 1964.

While at the firm, he instituted a formal associate attorney program and led the firm through an office move. He was added as a named partner in the 1990s.

“Davis Brown is lucky to have been a part of Steve’s life and career,” the firm’s president, John Pietila, said in a prepared statement. Roberts “shined as one of the firm’s great characters and champions, providing more than 50 years of dedicated service, great stories, and reliable friendship.”  

Roberts was state chair of the Republican Party from 1977 through 1981, according to his obituary. During that time, the Republicans gained control of both houses of the Legislature, and elected two Republican U.S. senators and a representative.

Even though Roberts campaigned against former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin several times, Roberts was appointed as a member of the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement’s National Advisory Council.

Roberts “was a citizen and a gentleman of the first order,” Harkin said in a prepared statement.  “As an active member of the Iowa Republican Party, and its former state chair, he helped many in his party to achieve success at the ballot box. And he did so with class: he was neither boastful in his victories nor rancorous in his defeats.”

Roberts volunteered his time to many other organizations, including the American Cancer Society, Boy Scouts of America and Y-Camp. In 2017, he was honored as one of dsm Magazine’s Sages Over 70.

Roberts had Parkinson’s disease for about 25 years and successfully battled cancer twice, according to his obituary.

He is survived by wife of 55 years, Dawn, and by three adult children and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in 2021.

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