JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler (search), who became prominent on defense issues during her four terms in Congress, died Wednesday, two days after suffering a brain hemorrhage. She was 62.
Fowler, who was known as the "Steel Magnolia" for her quiet tenacity in Congress, died at a hospital, said Tom Alexander, a family spokesman.
Gov. Jeb Bush (search) called Fowler "a great Floridian and committed public servant. Congresswoman Fowler was a great leader and was dedicated to making the lives of Floridians better. She will be missed."
Fowler was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, campaigning on an "eight is enough" term-limits pledge. She declined to seek re-election in 2000 though at the time she was vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, placing her fifth in the GOP hierarchy.
"Tillie will be remembered as an effective legislator because she always kept her word to her colleagues and constituents," House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search) said.
After leaving Congress in January 2001, she was mentioned as a possible secretary of the Navy in the Bush administration, but instead joined the national law firm of Holland & Knight (search).
Since 2003, Fowler was chairwoman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, which advises Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. She also chaired the committee that investigated alleged sexual assaults at the U.S. Air Force Academy and served on the committee that investigated prisoner abuse in Iraq.
Fowler, who represented the city of Jacksonville as a lobbyist on military base realignment and closures in 2003 and 2004, had been scheduled to attend a meeting Monday to discuss the upcoming round of base closings.
A native of Milledgeville, Ga., she was the daughter of former Georgia state Sen. Culver Kidd.
After graduating from Emory University law school, Fowler worked for Georgia Rep. Robert Stephens and in the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs with Elizabeth Dole, now a Republican U.S. senator from North Carolina.
"She was nothing less than the embodiment of a woman who could achieve anything," Dole said. "Her compassion, grace, warmth and cheerful personality will always live in my heart."