Former House Speaker Tom Foley has died at the age of 84, House Democratic and Republican offices said Friday.
Foley, who was born and raised in Spokane, Wash., was elected to the House in 1964 from Washington’s Fifth Congressional District. Over the course of 15 terms, he rose to become chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Majority Whip, Majority Leader, and on June 6, 1989, the 57th Speaker of the House.
"It was a natural sequence for a natural leader," said House Speaker John Boehner. "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 the "whole House extends its heartfelt sympathy to Tom’s wife, Heather, a longtime friend of this institution. We will keep her and all of Tom’s friends and loved ones in our prayers. He will be dearly missed.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Foley served the country for 36 years "as a quintessential champion of the common good.
"A proud son of Washington state, he stood on the strength of his principles and inspired a sense of purpose and civility that reflects the best of our democracy," she said.
She noted Foley’s "unrivaled ability to build consensus and find common ground earned him genuine respect on both sides of the aisle."
She said the year she took office, Foley "secured a much-needed budget compromise that restored public faith in our financial security and confidence in Congress. That characteristic passion for fairness and deep respect for others later defined his extraordinary work as President Clinton’s Ambassador to Japan.
"Our country mourns the loss of a leader whose authenticity, dedication, and diplomacy will forever serve as an example to all of us who strive to make a difference through public service," she said. "It was an honor to serve with him as a colleague; it was a privilege to know him as a friend. We only hope it is a comfort to his wife Heather and his family that so many mourn their loss at this sad time.”