Associated Press reports from Cheyenne, Wyoming, that Western pioneer descendant and former Wyoming U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop has died at age 78. The anti-Communist Republican, who served in the Senate for 18 years, is the first elected official to propose space-based missile defense, which became part of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

But I remember Sen. Wallop, an advocate for property rights, as one of only two U.S. senators during the historic Clinton health care plan debate of 1993-1994 to proclaim – correctly – that health care is not a right. During this crucial national debate, which preceded America’s current system, ObamaCare, Sen. Wallop named the flawed premise of government-dictated medicine by standing on the Senate floor and declaring that health care is not a right (Texas Sen. Phil Gramm was the only other senator to say it). Despite Republican attempts to compromise and pass the Clinton health care plan, socialized medicine was defeated; the Clinton administration’s widely unpopular scheme never became a piece of legislation.

According to his official bio, Wallop was also the first non-lawyer in U.S. Senate history to serve on the Judiciary Committee and, as ranking Republican member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 1990 to 1994, Sen. Wallop was an outspoken advocate for development of domestic energy supplies of coal, oil and natural gas. Wallop pushed for an amendment to the 1980 Clean Water Act, barring federal usurpation of state control of water, authored the Sunset of the Carter Era Windfall Profits Tax, the first sunsetted tax in history, and he sponsored the 1977 Wallop Amendment to the Surface Mining Control Act, which directed the federal government to compensate, through purchase or exchange, owners of mineral rights whose right to mine had been denied by government regulation. In 1981, Congress enacted his legislation to cut inheritance and gift taxes. He later founded his own grass-roots organization, Frontiers of Freedom, whose agenda includes “preservation of property rights and reform of the Endangered Species Act, the privatization of Social Security, protection of civil liberties and the defeat of such big government initiatives as the antiterrorism bill and the national ID card legislation, and reform of the Food and Drug Administration.”

In 1996, Steve Forbes asked Wallop to be general chairman and executive director of his presidential bid, leading to changes which led to primary victories in both Delaware and Arizona. The Yale University graduate served in the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant from 1955 to 1957 and was a member of the Wyoming Legislature from 1969 to 1976. His extensive business career includes management of the Wyoming ranch holdings he owned and the self-described rancher, businessman, real estate developer and investor jointly ventured oil and gas development projects in Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming. Mr. Wallop died Wednesday afternoon at his home near Big Horn, Wyoming.