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Former Rep. Henry Hyde dies

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  • Former Rep. Henry Hyde dies at the age of 83
  • Hyde served in the House from 1975 to 2006
  • Illinois Republican served as House Judiciary chairman from 1995 to 2001
  • President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Congressman Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, died early Thursday morning. He was 83.

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Henry Hyde served in the House for more than three decades.

Hyde's death was confirmed by a spokesman in the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Hyde had been ill for some time and had open heart surgery in July.

In his final years in office, he was wheelchair bound and frail.

Hyde's wife, Judy, was with him last night at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, according to Tom Mooney, his former chief of staff.

According to Mooney, Hyde said to his wife he wanted to "go home," to which Judy replied, "We are going to get you home." He passed away soon after that.

Born in 1924, Hyde served in the House from 1975 to 2006 and retired at end of the last session. Hyde served as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2001.

Hyde, a Catholic, was a vocal opponent of abortion. In 1976 Hyde attached an amendment to a spending bill that banned federal funding for abortions.

The amendment later become known as the "Hyde Amendment" and has been at the center of the political fight over abortion since its passage.

He chaired the committee during the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998. The committee and the full House approved articles of impeachment stemming from the Lewinsky scandal, in which Clinton was accused of lying under oath about his sexual relationship with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The Senate later voted against the charges.

In a written statement, Boehner called Hyde "a constitutional scholar, a thoughtful legislator, and a passionate orator."

"But above all, he will be remembered as a gentleman who stood as a beacon for the bedrock principles of liberty, justice, and, above all, respect for life," Boehner said.

"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," Boehner said in the statement. "Indeed, when Henry spoke in Committee or on the House floor, Members on both sides of aisle listened intently -- and they learned."

On November 5, President Bush awarded Hyde the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the president can bestow on an American citizen.

"He proved that a man can have firm convictions and be a favorite of Democrats and Republicans alike," Bush said at the medal ceremony. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Deirdre Walsh, Virginia Niccolaidis and Adam Levine contributed to this report

All About Henry HydeU.S. House of Representatives

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