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Massachusetts Rep. Moakley dies of leukemia

BETHESDA, Maryland (CNN) -- Rep. John Joseph Moakley, 74, a good-humored Capitol Hill fixture for the last 29 years, died Monday of complications from leukemia.

"It is my sad duty to notify you that our dear friend Joe Moakley passed away today, Memorial Day, at 3:30 p.m.," said Rep. James McGovern, D-Massachusetts, a former Moakley staffer, Monday at Bethesda Naval Hospital. "At his bedside were members of his family and his brothers Bob and Tom, staff and friends.

"We all loved Joe very, very much," McGovern said. "We all admired the courage and even the humor he displayed over these last few weeks."

Moakley, known to his friends and adversaries as "Joe," was a Massachusetts Democrat who represented the congressional district encompassing the rough-and-tumble South Boston section of Boston. He surprised many of his fellow House members earlier this year by announcing he was ill with leukemia, and planned to retire at the end of his term in 2002.

Moakley was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital last week and his condition was said to have deteriorated rapidly. Family members and friends, including several lawmakers, held a long vigil at his bedside over the weekend.

John Joseph Moakley

Born April 27, 1927, Boston, Massachusetts

Military service: U.S. Navy, 1943-46

University of Miami, 1950-1951
Suffolk University Law School, Boston, 1956
Admitted to bar in Massachusetts, 1957

Political career:
Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1952-1960
Massachusetts senate, 1964-70
Boston City Council, 1971-72
U.S. House of Representatives, 1973-2001
Chairman, House Rules Committee, 1989-95

President Bush honored a stricken Moakley in March with a moving bill-signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Bush feted the onetime chairman of the House Rules Committee by signing a bill designating the gleaming new federal courthouse in South Boston as the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse.

"Joe has described himself as a 'bread-and-butter' Democrat," Bush said on that day. "He has been a passionate advocate for what he believes in and has been an enormously effective member of Congress."

"What makes Joe Moakley exceptional is the fact that he is so well-liked and admired by members of both political parties," Bush said. "He is civil, friendly and funny."

Moakley was touched by the gesture.

"I'll always be in your debt for this," he said.

Moakley first traveled to Capitol Hill in 1972, when as a freshman he was taken under the wing of future House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, also of Massachusetts and then a rapidly rising star in the House leadership.

Moakley served many of his House years as a key member of the House Rules Committee. He chaired the influential committee -- which drafts resolutions setting parameters for legislative debates on the House floor -- until January 1995, when the Republicans took control of the House.

Rather than seek a new committee assignment, Moakley became the ranking member of the Rules Committee and was known as a fierce fighter for the Democratic minority.

• Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Massachusetts

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