Lugar graduated first in his class at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis. Lugar graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and from there went to Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar, where he received an honors degree in politics, philosophy and economics. He was awarded 35 honorary degrees. Lugar was a fifth-generation Hoosier and was the longest-serving senator in Indiana history. Before becoming a senator, he served two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, from 1968 to 1975, playing a pivotal role in consolidating the city and county governments into one entity.
He was first elected to the Senate in 1976 and was re-elected in 2006 with 87 percent of the vote. He was the Republican leader of the Foreign Relations Committee and a member and former chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee (1995-2001), he built bipartisan support for federal farm program reforms and passed the 1996 Farm Bill. During the 2002 Farm Bill debate, he was the leading proponent for restraining agriculture subsidies and administering farm programs more equitably within the American farm community. He was widely recognized by Republicans and Democrats alike for his expertise in foreign affairs and agricultural issues.
A longtime leader in reducing the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, he forged a bipartisan partnership with then-Armed Services Chairman Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., in 1991 to destroy weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. A partial list of the program's successes includes 7,599 strategic nuclear warheads deactivated, 791 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) destroyed, 498 ICBM silos eliminated, 180 ICBM mobile launchers destroyed, 670 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) eliminated, 670 SLBM launchers eliminated and 33 nuclear submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles destroyed. The Nunn-Lugar program also has worked to re-employ scientists and facilities related to weapons of mass destruction in peaceful research initiatives. In May 2009, Lugar celebrated the Nunn-Lugar Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in Shchuchye, Russia, which is set to destroy nearly 2 million chemical weapons shells and nerve agent stored there since Soviet days. To date, the Nunn-Lugar program has deactivated more than 7,200 nuclear warheads that were once aimed at the United States, and beginning in 2000, the two senators have been nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in reducing the nuclear threat.
Lugar managed a 604-acre family farm in Marion County.