Gov. Ed Rendell
Gov. Ed Rendell (John Pavoncello)

Even in the last weeks of his life, Gov. George Leader took an active role in public issues, according to former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Rendell was close friends with Leader, he said, especially because the two shared similar views on the importance of education.

The fruits of Leader's 30-plus years of public service are his legacy, the former governor said.

"He probably had a greater impact on ... this state than anyone I can think of," Rendell said.

Leader's efforts didn't end when he left the governor's office. He also helped better the state as a businessman, a community leader and a philanthropist, according to Rendell.

The two men got to know each other in 2002 when Leader endorsed Rendell for governor, in large part because of Rendell's views on education, he said.

'Remarkable guy': "From that moment on, we became good friends and confidants," Rendell said, adding he would call his predecessor for advice and support.

"He was just a remarkable guy."

Leader also remained "very active" on public issues, according to Rendell.

"His mind was great," Rendell said. "His physical health wasn't great, but he was sharp as a tack right to the end."

About a six weeks ago, four former state governors -- Democrats Leader and Rendell and Republicans Dick Thornburgh and Tom Ridge -- publicly urged lawmakers to adopt a merit selection process for appellate judges. In Pennsylvania and a few other states, appellate judges are elected.

Critics say that could lead to influence-peddling and favoritism.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.