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Former White House spokesman Tony Snow dies

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  • NEW: Former Bush spokesman a smiling fighter, congressman says
  • President calls Snow "a devoted public servant and a man of character"
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  • Snow resigned White House job, saying he needed higher income
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former White House press secretary Tony Snow -- who once told reporters "I'm a very lucky guy" -- died at the age of 53 early Saturday after a second battle with cancer.

Snow, who had been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for a recurrence of the disease, left his White House job September 14, 2007, and joined CNN in April as a conservative commentator.

President Bush said Saturday that he and first lady Laura Bush were "deeply saddened" by Snow's death.

"The Snow family has lost a beloved husband and father. And America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character," the president said in a statement.

"It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day."

Snow also worked for the first President Bush, who commented Saturday:

"In this case it isn't a press secretary. It isn't a speech writer. It was a dear, valued friend that went on to heaven. ... He won the respect of even those who violently disagree with the president's proposals and policies. For that I think he'll be remembered. He brought a certain civility to this very contentious job."

Snow's successor, White House press secretary Dana Perino, said, "The White House is so deeply saddened by this loss. He was a great friend and colleague and a fantastic press secretary. And his dear family is in our thoughts and prayers." Photo See images from Tony Snow's White House days »

Republican Rep. John Boehner called Snow "a proud son of Cincinnati," the Ohio city that Boehner represents in Congress and where Snow grew up.

"Churchill said, 'I like a man who grins when he fights,' and that was Tony Snow," Boehner said. "For 35 years, as a writer, broadcaster, and spokesman, he fought fiercely for what he believed in, and he did it with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. His loss is a loss for our country." Gallery: Journalists and elected officials respond to Snow's death »

In 2007, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten had told senior White House staffers that unless they could commit to staying until Bush leaves office in January 2009, they should leave by Labor Day 2007, so Snow resigned.

In parting comments to reporters at his final White House news conference, Snow said, "I feel great."

He also called the job "the most fun I've ever had."

Snow said he was leaving the White House position to make more money for his family. His White House salary was $168,000, and he said he had taken out a loan so he could take the job. Snow said he was leaving because the loan money ran out. Video Watch the White House staff's warm send-off »

Snow is survived by his wife, Jill Walker, and three children -- Kendall, Robbie and Kristi.

Snow was first diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2005. His colon was removed, and after six months of treatment, doctors said the cancer was in remission.

A recurrence of the illness was diagnosed 11 months after he began the White House media job. At that time, doctors also discovered that the colon cancer had spread to his liver.

He underwent five weeks of treatment before resuming his daily briefings to the press corps. He was greeted with applause upon his return.

"Not everybody will survive cancer," Snow told the reporters, "but on the other hand, you have got to realize you've got the gift of life, so make the most of it. That is my view, and I'm going to make the most of my time with you."

Perino announced March 27, 2007, that Snow's cancer had recurred, and said doctors had removed a growth from his abdomen the day before. Video Watch how Snow fought through the illness »

Bush tapped Snow to replace Scott McClellan in April 2006.

Snow had been an anchor for "Fox News Sunday" and a political analyst for Fox News Channel, which he joined in 1996. He also hosted "The Tony Snow Show" on Fox News Radio.

During the 1990s, he was a regular guest host for Rush Limbaugh's radio program. During that decade he was a writer, correspondent and host of a PBS news special, "The New Militant Center," a regular commentator for National Public Radio and a frequent guest on television news programs.

Snow was known for his candor.

In a November 11, 2005, column, Snow wrote that Bush's "wavering conservatism has become an active concern among Republicans, who wish he would stop cowering under the bed and start fighting back against the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Wilson."

"The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment," Snow's column said.

"I asked him about those comments," the president joked at the time of Snow's appointment. "And he said, 'You should have heard what I said about the other guy.'" iReport.com: Share your memories of Snow

Bush said Snow's long career as a journalist helped him understand "the importance of the relationship between government and those whose job it is to cover the government."

Robert Anthony Snow was born June 1, 1955, in Berea, Kentucky, and was raised in Cincinnati. When he was 17, his mother died of colon cancer at age 38.

After receiving a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Davidson College near Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1977, Snow pursued graduate work in philosophy and economics at the University of Chicago.

He worked as an editorial writer and editor at several newspapers, including The Washington Times and the Detroit News. He wrote a column in Detroit, and later wrote a syndicated column.

Snow joined the administration of Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, in 1991, first as chief speech writer and later as deputy assistant to the president for media affairs.

Snow became a television personality when he launched his news shows on Fox in 1993.

When he returned to work at the White House on April 30, 2007, after the second cancer diagnosis, a usually articulate and loquacious Snow stumbled to find words.

"You never anticipate this stuff," he said. "It just happens."

"I want to thank you all. It really meant the world to me. Anybody who does not not believe that thoughts and prayers make a difference, they're just wrong."

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He then prefaced a discussion of his health by saying, "I'm a very lucky guy."

Outside of work, Snow played the guitar, saxophone and flute, and was in a band called Beats Workin' with other Washington professionals.

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