Tom Foley Dies

October 30, 2013 by  

Tom Foley Dies, President Obama praised former House speaker Tom Foley on Tuesday as a man of humility, hailing the Democrat as an example of a consensus builder still needed in today’s era of bitter politics.

“It was his personal decency to bring civility and order to a House that demanded both and still does,” Obama said at a congressional memorial service for Foley, who died on Oct. 18 at the age of 84.

“At a time when our political system can seem more polarized and more divided than ever before, it can be tempting to see the possibility of bipartisanship progress as a thing of the past,” Obama said. “It can be tempting to wonder if we still have room for leaders like Tom … Well, I believe we have to find our way back there.”

Foley, House speaker from June 1989 to January 1995, died of complications from strokes. The towering Democrat from eastern Washington, who stood 6 feet 4 inches, became the 57th speaker of the House just as Newt Gingrich and a more activist Republican Party were on the rise.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., underscored Foley’s appeal when he called him “the last speaker of the whole House.”

Foley became the most visible Democratic casualty of the 1994 Republican “revolution,” losing the Spokane-based House seat he held for 30 years to political neophyte George Nethercutt, who portrayed him as out of touch. Later, Foley would serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan in the Clinton administration.

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