WASHINGTON -- Former House Speaker Tom Foley, a Washington Democrat who served 15 terms before losing his congressional seat in the 1994 Republican revolution, has died.
Foley was 84, according to statement issued by House Speaker John A. Boehner announcing the news.
Foley, a Spokane native, become the 57th speaker of the House in June 1989, after moving up the leadership ranks and chairing the House Agriculture Committee. He was the first sitting speaker since 1862 to lose his seat while holding the gavel and was succeeded by Rep. Newt Gingrich.
“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 the statement. “That had a lot to do with his solid sense of fairness, which remains a model for any speaker or representative."
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Foley “a quintessential champion of the common good.”
“In his years leading the House of Representatives, Speaker Foley’s unrivaled ability to build consensus and find common ground earned him genuine respect on both sides of the aisle,” the California Democrat said in a statement.
After leaving office, Foley served as U.S. ambassador to Japan during the Clinton administration. He is survived by his wife, Heather.