Former House Speaker Tom Foley dead at 84
October 18th, 2013
12:22 PM ET
11 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. Rudy NYC

    " " <-- moment of silence

    October 18, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. Larry in Houston

    May He Rest In Peace – Prayers are with his Family, in this time of grieve. As far as I'm concerned, He was the best Speaker of the House, EVER...... He didn't have to "corral" his members, and all the stuff that goes on today. He wasn't outspoken. He was a quiet man, who never caused any waves within his own party. I can go on & on......

    We'll never get another one like him....too bad.

    October 18, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. Thomas

    My thoughts go out to his friends and family .

    A honest and compassionate man .

    October 18, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Larry in Houston

    May He Rest In Peace – Prayers are with his Family, in this time of grieve. As far as I'm concerned, He was the best Speaker of the House, EVER...... He didn't have to "corral" his members, and all the stuff that goes on today. He wasn't outspoken. He was a quiet man, who never caused any waves within his own party. I can go on & on......

    We'll never get another one like him....too bad....

    October 18, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    May he rest in peace.

    October 18, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. John Paul

    He's probably in Hell. So I think he will be doing anything BUT resting in peace.

    October 18, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Sandra Tambini

    How sad. Peace to him and his family. If only we had someone like him today...

    October 18, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. lary

    1 down 1 to go

    October 18, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. Bruce in VA

    One always had the sense that Foley was a very decent man. RIP.

    October 18, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. lean6

    Not to be confused with Mark Foley. Rest in Peace. We'll all travel that road one day.

    October 18, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Mike

    He was a good man. Our current politicians should use him as a model.

    October 18, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. Alan L. Barer

    A statesman first. A politician second. An example needed today.

    Alan

    October 18, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  13. 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.

    October 18, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  14. Mion

    Rest in peace, Tom Foley. My condolences to his family and friends.

    October 18, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. Reagan

    Bush's fault

    October 18, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  16. general tso

    One of the last of the generation that cared more for the country than for his (or her) party. Both sides of the aisle could learn a lot from those such as Foley.

    October 18, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    My moment of silence was concatenated from dozens of spaces down to a single one. May he rest in peace.

    October 18, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. Reasonable Descent

    Requiescat in pace

    October 18, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. snotfair

    Tom Foley- A class act- May he rest in peace. -l-

    October 18, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. 4 More Years

    He was axel's dad from the beverly hills cop

    October 18, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. Wake up People!

    RIP sir.

    October 18, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. 4urpost

    another fat cat...we all die, but these jerks need to go 1st

    October 18, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. ItSoNlYmE

    Condolences to his family. We could use a lot more like him these days.

    October 18, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. Chuck in Nashville

    Truly a remarkable man and Speaker. He was able to keep the House running efficiently and without major conflict for nearly 6 years tenure. Never a major split in the House and he worked well with everyone on both sides of the aisle.

    I hate to call him a "politician"...as he was a quiet yet strong leader who truly worked in the best interests of the people of the United States.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Foley.

    October 18, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. Debbie

    May he Rest in Peace. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Please know how grateful I am for his many years of service. I have always been humbled by his humility and dedication. He had genuine concern for his country and the way it was heading.

    October 18, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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