KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Former Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, a champion of the military who served 17 terms in the U.S. House before losing a re-election bid in 2010, has died. He was 81.
Skelton died Monday at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., surrounded by family and friends, including longtime colleague Russell Orban.
The cause was not immediately released, but Orban says Skelton entered the hospital a week earlier with a cough. Oban confirmed Skelton's death to The Associated Press.
The Lexington, Mo., native was a Democrat and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Skelton lost to Republican Vicky Hartzler in 2010 in western Missouri's 4th Congressional District. He then joined the law firm of Kansas City-based Husch Blackwell, working in its offices in Kansas City and Washington.
Gov. Jay Nixon issued the following statement:
"A role model to whom I had the honor of presenting Missouri's highest military honor, the Conspicuous Service Medal, Ike Skelton inspired us all with his quiet dignity and tireless commitment to America's men and women in uniform. A friend to Missourians, Americans and liberty-loving people worldwide, Congressman Skelton embodied the true meaning of public service and will forever be remembered as a leader who left a legacy of greater prosperity and security for his district, our state and our nation."
Mo. Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple issued the following statement:
"He was a Missourian, a statesman and a champion of a strong and sensible national defense. And above all, he was a gentleman. His love of and faith in America was unshakable and his support for the U.S. military was second to none. This is a loss for Missouri and the nation. We extend our sincerest sympathy to his family."
Congressman Lacy Clay issued the following statement:
"Tonight, our nation has lost a remarkable public servant, our state has lost a courageous advocate and I have lost a dear friend. Congressman Ike Skelton was my mentor and among my closest colleagues when I first came to the U.S. House. For 34-years, Ike Skelton was a champion for his district, the State of Missouri and for every brave American who wore the uniform of this country. My family and I send our deepest sympathies to his wife Patty and his wonderful family. I am a better Member of Congress today because I served with Ike Skelton. His legacy of service and devotion to his constituents and our Armed Forces will never be forgotten."
Congresswoman Ann Wagner released the following statement:
"I am truly saddened to learn of the passing of a great Missourian, Ike Skelton. He was a true giant of Missouri history, tireless defender of Veterans and a man of great integrity who was a consistent voice for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. His service and commitment to serving others will never be forgotten, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."
Senator Claire McCaskill issued the following statement:
"Missouri lost a giant tonight. Ike Skelton represented the very best of Missouri, and fought tirelessly for the state he loved. Those of us lucky enough to call him a friend know that he lived the Missouri values of compromise and common sense. And in his half-century of service, he showed how Missouri could be a leader in contributing to the safety and security of our nation. I join all Missourians in sending my thoughts and prayers to Patty and the rest of Ike's family. I'll miss him dearly."
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