Former Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-Wash.), who was the first speaker to lose re-election since the Civil War, died at age 84 of complications from a stroke he suffered in December.
Former President George H.W. Bush said in a statement Friday that Foley “represented the very best in public service — and our political system. He always fought for his principles. He was always well-informed and well-reasoned, but Tom never got personal or burned bridges.”
A 15-term House member, Foley was defeated by George Nethercutt in the 1994 Republican revolution.
“For thirty years, Tom Foley represented the people of Washington’s 5th district with skill, dedication, and a deep commitment to improving the lives of those he was elected to serve,” President Obama said in a statement. “Tom’s straightforward approach helped him find common ground with members of both parties, eventually leading to his election as the 57th Speaker of the House. After his career in Congress, Tom served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, where his poise and civility helped strengthen our relationship with one of our closest allies.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Foley a “natural leader.”
“Forthright and warmhearted, Tom Foley endeared himself not only to the wheat farmers back home but also colleagues on both sides of the aisle. That had a lot to do with his solid sense of fairness, which remains a model for any Speaker or representative. Take it from the great Henry Hyde, who used to say of Tom, ‘I wish he were a Republican.’ With his passing, the House loses one of its most devoted servants and the country loses a great statesman,” Boehner said.
“Tom Foley was a public servant of the highest honor who put the future of our nation, our environment and even our fiscal health, above party and even his own political future,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “I had the privilege of serving in the House of Representatives for the full length of his tenure as Speaker. I appreciated his understated style, immense skills as a legislator, and sheer love of his home state of Washington. My prayers and condolences go out to Heather and the entire Foley family at this time of great loss.”