WASHINGTON – Former Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, a strong foreign policy and anti-abortion voice in Congress and a leader of House impeachment proceedings in 1998, died Thursday. He was 83.
Hyde served in the House of Representatives for 32 years and was a key foreign relations leader there, chairing the House International Relations Committee for six years. He was well-known for his sponsorship of the amendment passed by Congress banning federal funding for abortion, which became known as the Hyde amendment.
In addition to helping shape U.S. policy in the War on Terror, Hyde in 2003 oversaw passage of a $15 billion bill to fight the international AIDS epidemic.
"Left unchecked, this plague will further rip the fabric of developing societies, pushing fragile governments and economies to the point of collapse," he said once. "So to those who suggest that the United States has no stake in this pandemic, let me observe that the specter of failed states across the world certainly is our business."
In the 1990s he joined the Clinton administration in opposing the 1973 War Powers Resolution, an act restricting the president's authority to engage troops overseas that some GOP lawmakers sought to invoke to protest military operations in Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia.
Well-liked among his colleagues, he didn't bow from major conflicts. While chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Hyde served as lead House manager during the impeachment of President Clinton beginning in 1998. Hyde did not seek re-election in 2006.
The white-maned, portly Hyde cast an imposing shadow when he said it was Congress' duty to impeach the president for lying under oath to a federal judge about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. But Hyde's reputation was tarnished during the process when an online magazine revealed that he'd had his own affair with a married woman some 30 years before. Hyde, in his early 40s at the time of the affair, brushed it off as a "youthful indiscretion."
Hyde remained married throughout his affair, but his wife of 45 years, Jeanne Simpson Hyde, died in 1992. He later remarried Judy Wolverton of Illinois, state Republican officials said. Hyde is survived by four children and four grandchildren.
He had heart surgery in July, and was admitted to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago on Nov. 25 for persistent kidney failure related to his heart problems, hospital spokeswoman Mary Ann Schultz said.
Hyde suffered a fatal arrhythmia and died in his sleep at 2:30 a.m CT, Thursday, Schultz said.
"According to his wife Judy, he maintained the same dignity in his death
that he displayed throughout his life," Schultz said.
Days before leaving office, President Bush presented Hyde with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The White House praised Hyde as a "powerful defender of life" and an advocate for a strong national defense.
"The passing of Henry Hyde is a great loss for America, for the House of Representatives, and for those of us who had the privilege of knowing him and serving with him. He was a leader in so many ways. Henry Hyde was perhaps the most patriotic American I have ever met. He believed in this country and he always fought for what he believed was best for it. The House was blessed to have a Member so tireless in his devotion to his work here," said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.
"What often struck me most about Henry was his keen sense of our nation's history and of the gifts bestowed on our Republic by the Founding Fathers, whose actions and deeds were never far from his mind," House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.
"In his respect for the institutional integrity of the House of Representatives, Henry took second place to no one. He was a forceful advocate for maintaining the dignity of the House and for recognizing the sacrifices and struggles members make while in its service. Indeed, when Henry spoke in Committee or on the House floor, Members on both sides of aisle listened intently and they learned," Boehner said.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who heads the conservative Republican Study Committee, said: "Chairman Hyde was a pioneer in the effort to protect human life, and because of his tireless efforts, there are thousands of people living around the world today who remember his service to mankind."
Hyde was born in Chicago on April 18, 1924, where he was an all-city basketball center. After serving in the Navy from 1944 to 1946, seeing combat in the Philippines, he graduated from Georgetown University in 1947 and returned to Chicago to earn a law degree from Loyola in 1949.
Raised a Democrat, he switched parties to vote for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. He worked as a Chicago trial lawyer before winning a seat in the Illinois House in 1966 and then in the U.S. House in 1974.
A conservative when the Republican Party was still dominated by moderates, Hyde gained elder statesman status when young conservatives propelled the GOP into control of the House in 1994.
FOX News' Molly Hooper and Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.