William Delahunt, a passionate voice for the Vineyard who served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Massachusetts’s 10th congressional district from 1997 to 2011, died on March 30 at the age 82.

Mr. Delahunt’s tenure in political office stretched back much further than his time as an advocate for the Vineyard, a career he reflected on during an interview with the Vineyard Gazette in 2010.

“I have held elected office for 39 consecutive years and I’m going to be 69 in July,” he said at the time of his pending retirement. “For everything there is a season. This was my season to step aside.”

With President Barack Obama. — Courtesy Cape Cod Times

The 10th congregressional district was redistricted in 2013, with the Cape and Island's becoming part of the 9th district, now represented by William Keating.

Mr. Delahunt was born in Quincy, which is where his career began when he was elected to the city councilor there in 1972. He also served as the Norfolk County district attorney for more than 20 years before he was elected as a Democrat to Congress, representing the Cape, South Shore and the Islands.

“I’m one of those who were inspired to public service by Jack [President John F.] Kennedy,” he said in the interview. “In 1960 I was co-chairman of Students for Kennedy at Middlebury College in Vermont. It was a very exciting time. In the 1960s there was the civil rights movement, the Viet Nam war, the era of Jack Kennedy, Martin Luther King. I was swept up in the sentiments of those times. That government could do good, could change things.”

Mr. Delahunt was a champion of the Coast Guard and fishing issues, stood out for his opposition to the Iraq War, pushed for the Tourism Promotion Act signed by President Obama, sought funding for community health programs for the Islands and helped arrange financing for the rebuilding of the Mansion House hotel after it burned down.

He was also instrumental in the signing of the Intercountry Adoption Act in 2000, an issue close to his heart. The act helped give automatic citizenship to children who were legally adopted from overseas. Following the Viet Nam War, Mr. Delahunt and his wife adopted a Vietnamese child during the mass evacuation of Vietnamese orphans following the war, known as Operation Babylift.

Years later, when the Delahunts tried to travel to Germany, their daughter, although legally adopted, faced passport problems as she was still not considered an American citizen.

“That day in February 2001, when a bill was signed into law, that I authored, that conferred automatic citizenship on children who were legally adopted from overseas, approximately 140,000 children became citizens automatically on one single day, the most ever in the history of the country,” he said during the 2010 interview.

Mr. Delahunt described himself as an eternal optimist, which formed his political style of reaching across the aisle to get needed work done. In 2010, while preparing for private life, he lifted up his time representing the Vineyard.

“Let me just say it has been not only an honor or a pleasure, but a delight in representing the people on this Island. When I think of the 14 years, the memories that have accumulated have really been etched into my psyche and have enriched my life. And I shall return.”