Former House Speaker Tom Foley dead at 84
October 18th, 2013
12:22 PM ET
10 months ago

Former House Speaker Tom Foley dead at 84

(CNN) - Former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley died at his home in Washington, D.C., his wife Heather confirmed Friday.

Foley, 84, was a Democrat who represented Washington state in the House for 30 years and served as speaker from 1989 to January 1995.

After his tenure on Capitol Hill, he was appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan by President Bill Clinton. He served from 1997 to 2001.

Foley became the 57th speaker in 1989 after then-Speaker James Wright resigned from office amid an ethics scandal.

Before taking that post, Foley served as House majority leader, majority whip and Agriculture Committee chairman, and was an influential member of the Select House Committee on Iran Contra.

He was first elected to the House in 1964, beating incumbent Republican Walt Horan, a 27-year veteran of the House.

Foley's career in Congress ended three decades later when he was defeated in 1994, the year Republicans retook the House in what is sometimes known as the "Republican Revolution." He was succeeded as speaker by then-Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

Current House Speaker John Boehner on Friday said Foley's rise to speaker was a "natural sequence for 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," Boehner said in a written statement. "That had a lot to do with his solid sense of fairness, which remains a model for any Speaker or representative."

President Barack Obama said in a statement that Foley had a "straightforward approach" and represented his constituents with "skill, dedication, and a deep commitment to improving the lives of those he was elected to serve."

Former President George H.W. Bush said that Foley "represented the very best in public service - and our political system" and "never got personal or burned bridges."

Foley had a largely liberal record in Congress, supporting Great Society programs and opposing the Vietnam War. He was pro-abortion rights, backed the Equal Rights Amendment, and opposed capital punishment, as well as a constitutional amendment allowing school prayer.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said Foley had an "unrivaled ability" to build consensus and find common ground in the House.

"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," Pelosi said in a written statement.

Foley graduated from the University of Washington in 1951 and from Washington Law School in 1957. In his legal career, he served as assistant attorney general for Washington state and deputy prosecutor in Spokane County.

Before running for Congress, Foley worked as a special counsel to the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee from 1961 to 1964.

Foley is survived by his wife, Heather, whom he married in December 1968.


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soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Malory Archer

    Daveindallas

    A 10 year old also died today of cancer....
    Which of these stories do you think I care more about..

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Did you post on both message threads? That being said:Just yesterday there was an article on the ticker ....
    -------------------------------------------------
    Exquisitely done Malory Archer!!
    Bravo/a!!

    October 18, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    BO

    Foley was the first Speaker of the House since 1862 to be defeated in a re-election campaign for Congress. Harry Reid will be next.
    -----------------–
    Allow me to quote what Malory Archer has posted. "That being said:Just yesterday there was an article on the ticker about my congressman Bill Young being gravely ill. While we on the left aren't fond of him we kept our opinions to ourselves and wished him well. The tighty righties prove once again that "compassionate conservative" is an oxymoron. Their parents should have raised them better."

    That being said, your scenario is only possible in the alternate reality where Harry Reid is Speaker of the House.

    October 18, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. NYVeteran

    Men like Tom Foley made the word politician mean something as opposed to the pathetic wannabees today that made it a four letter word. he was a good man and cared about the little guy. Thank you for your service Mr. Speaker.

    October 18, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  4. Jesse

    I miss the the 90's the social boom was great. People don't seem to understand that things change. Older generations stifling creative growth and change in the world. Hold a seed and you have the potential to change the seed into a tree that benefits all.

    October 18, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  5. Dave - Phx

    WHo cares another money grubbing country ruining moron.

    October 18, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. 2L

    RIP Speaker Foley – I remember when you were in office, thank you for your service!!

    October 18, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. J. Davis in Knoxville, TN

    Another great Democrat I remember well. A man of ethics, sincerity, and kindness–in contrast to the TEA PARTY leaders in Congress today who caused so much trouble with the government shutdown!

    October 18, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    -Rudy NYC

    BO

    Foley was the first Speaker of the House since 1862 to be defeated in a re-election campaign for Congress. Harry Reid will be next.
    -----––
    Allow me to quote what Malory Archer has posted. "That being said:Just yesterday there was an article on the ticker about my congressman Bill Young being gravely ill. While we on the left aren't fond of him we kept our opinions to ourselves and wished him well. The tighty righties prove once again that "compassionate conservative" is an oxymoron. Their parents should have raised them better."

    That being said, your scenario is only possible in the alternate reality where Harry Reid is Speaker of the House.
    ***********************************
    Rudy, you of all people whould know that attempting to point out facts to a rightie is like herding cats: its impossible by definition.

    October 18, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. JohnRJohnson

    Foley's departure from the Speakership marked the end of civility and compromise in the Congress.

    October 18, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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