Tags: Democratic | House | Member | Moakley | Dies

Democratic House Member Moakley Dies

Tuesday, 29 May 2001 12:00 AM

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass, announced Moakley's death. McGovern, who had been a staff aide to Moakley, said. "Not only did Joe Moakley teach us how to live, he taught us how to die,'' with grace and class.

Family, friends and congressional staff members had gathered Saturday as Moakley, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Rules Committee, was reported in "grave" condition. Moakley had been admitted Monday for a second hospitalization in two months and his two brothers, Thomas and Robert, authorized a statement Saturday evening that reflected his worsening condition.

The bearded Moakley, 74, was a legislator known on both sides of the aisle for an easy Irish amiability, an asset in building bipartisan coalitions at which he was acknowledged master.

Moakley was elected to the state legislature at the age of 25 and served in both houses before being elected to Congress in 1972. He was chairman of the House Rules Committee from 1989, as a colleague close to another Massachusetts Irish personality on Capitol Hill, then-House Speaker Tim O'Neill, until Republicans took control of Congress in 1994.

Moakley's health had been deteriorating since 1995. He underwent a liver transplant and had parts of his kidneys removed. He announced Feb. 12 at a news conference, during which many of the 100 people present cried, that he had a particularly acute and incurable form of leukemia – possibly triggered by the immunosuppressive drugs administered after the transplant – and would not run for a 16th term representing Massachusetts' Ninth District in the House next year. The affliction, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) evolves into erythroleukemia, blood cancer, and strikes about 5,000 Americans a year.

"Despite today's headlines, I consider myself a very lucky guy," he said then.

His wife Evelyn died from a brain tumor in 1995.

Earlier this year Moakley was honored by Boston and Massachusetts officials on a day designated "Joe Moakley Day," when 2,000 people contributed $2.5 million to the congressman's foundation that distributes scholarships. A similar foundation fundraiser in Washington drew even Republican political adversaries.

His 50 years as an ever-present politician from South Boston, from city council to the state legislature and Congress, had left the Moakley name on Boston's Federal Courthouse, designated as such by Congress soon after he disclosed his illness. President George W. Bush in March signed the designation in his first Rose Garden ceremony.

"Joe Moakley is a man of strong opinions and broad respect," Bush said of the Bay State Democrat, "and in this town it isn't always easy to combine the two."

Bush went on, "What makes Joe Moakley exceptional is not simply his political skills, it is the fact that he's so well-liked and admired by members of both political parties."

Moakley responded, "I always thought, growing up, that my name would be on some federal building, but I thought it might be written in chalk with some political expletive right behind it." He said the placement of the courthouse in what had been a blighted South Boston neighborhood where it can spearhead a redevelopment effort "is probably the highest honor I can think of."

At the Boston dedication ceremony April 19, a few days after being released from the hospital where he had been treated for a persistent fever, Moakley recalled that he and his boyhood friends used to search for watermelons discarded from freight trains on the site of the courthouse. "Never, never in my wildest dreams would I imagine the beautiful circle my life became," he was quoted as saying at the time.

Columbus Park, near his "Southie" boyhood neighborhood environs, was renamed for him and Boston's Evelyn Moakley Bridge is named after his late wife.

Boston's Suffolk University – where he earned a law degree in night school – includes the Moakley Law Library. The shipping industry counted Moakley as a patron for his co-sponsorship in 1997 of a resolution that reinforced the Jones Act, preserving certain privileges for U.S. carriers.

His "Moakley Commission" in the late 1980s reported the involvement of several high-ranking Salvadoran military officials in the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989. A steady critic of human rights abuses, particularly when attributed to recipients of U.S. aid, Moakley was able to recruit even some conservative Republicans to his cause through the years.

Moakely was a perennial co-sponsor of a House resolution to close Ft. Benning's U.S. Army School of the Americas, saying it had graduated 19 of the 26 people implicated in the murder of the Jesuits and some of those responsible for the killing of El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero, three human rights workers in Colombia and an a human rights activist in Guatemala.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass, announced Moakley's death. McGovern, who had been a staff aide to Moakley, said. Not only did Joe Moakley teach us how to live, he taught us how to die,'' with grace and class. Family, friends and congressional staff members had gathered...
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2001-00-29
Tuesday, 29 May 2001 12:00 AM
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