Former Speaker of the House Tom Foley died in his Washington, D.C. home Friday. Called the quintessential champion of the common good, from Gonzaga to the federal building the name Foley is written on the walls and hearts of Spokane.
Foley represented Washington's 5th Congressional District for 30 years before becoming Speaker of the House and later the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
Born in Spokane, the son of a judge, Foley learned at an early age the art of negotiation. Whether it was defending his democratic status to friends or debating various topic at Gonzaga University, Foley learned to banter words with the best, something he always backed up with a sharp intellect.
"Tom Foley was a great man. A true statesman," said Rich Cowan, partner in North by Northwest.
After graduating law school at the University of Washington, Foley taught at Gonzaga where his father also taught. The library still bares his father's and mother's names.
"For us that was an expression of life long generosity to the university," said Thayne McCulloh, president of Gonzaga University.
In 1965, Foley was elected to the House of Representatives.
"He had this ability to listen and engage and connect with people on a one-on-one basis," said Cowan.
Foley served as the chairman of the House's agricultural committee for five years, championing the food stamp program and opening foreign markets for products like Washington wheat and cherries..
"He was recognized not just within the country but internationally for his leadership and his willingness to bring people together," said McCulloh.
In 1989, Foley became Speaker of the House, showcasing his negotiation skills but also his willingness to fight for what he believed. His service in the House ended in 1995 but he would return as Ambassador to Japan from 1997 through 2001.
"You want to be able to say and think honestly for yourself that things were better for you having been there," said Foley.
Tom Foley passed away Friday morning at his home in Washington, D.C. from complications from a stroke. He was 84.