- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Sen. Paul Coverdell, a mild-mannered Georgia Republican who quickly rose to the fourth-ranking post in the Senate majority, died last night at age 61 after emergency surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage.
Mr. Coverdell died around 6:10 p.m. of complications from a stroke at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
His death was announced on the Senate floor by his good friend and admirer, Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
"Paul has been a close friend and confidant and an outstanding member of this body, and we will miss him greatly," Mr. Lott said.
Known for his dogged determination and willingness to take on unpopular political tasks, Mr. Coverdell had earned a reputation as a loyal lieutenant of Mr. Lott who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to unify the Republican majority.
He was elected to the Senate in 1992 and re-elected in 1998, becoming secretary of the Republican Conference and the chamber's point man for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Before he spoke at a Republican fund-raiser in Chicago, Mr. Bush announced Mr. Coverdell's death, drawing an audible gasp from a crowd of Republicans. He asked them to observe a moment of silence for "my great friend and friend of America."
After the observance, Mr. Bush said: "May God bless him and his family."
Vice President Al Gore also opened a campaign rally last night with a moment of silence for Mr. Coverdell.
"This is a partisan gathering, but we are all Americans," Mr. Gore said at a Kansas City, Mo., event, "and when something like this happens we join together in thinking of the family and thinking of our country and honoring the service of an individual who helped to make our constitution work and served in a distinguished way."
Mr. Coverdell had become one of the administration's most outspoken critics after mobilizing Republican opposition to President Clinton's health care initiative in 1993.
In a statement last night, Mr. Clinton honored Mr. Coverdell "for his years of service as a solider, a public servant and a statesman."
"Paul Coverdell spent a lifetime serving the people of Georgia and our country," Mr. Clinton said. "He was a tireless advocate who worked to ensure that all children have access to quality education."
Mr. Coverdell had been rushed to the hospital Saturday night after complaining of headaches off and on for weeks. He had been working especially hard lately preparing for the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
Doctors had performed tests on Sunday, but Mr. Coverdell's condition worsened, prompting surgeons to operate Monday morning to stop bleeding in his brain and relieve pressure. The hospital said his death was caused by uncontrollable swelling in the brain.
"Senator Coverdell's death was quiet," said a statement released by his office. "His wife, other family members and the Senate chaplain [Lloyd Ogilvie] were with him."
Mr. Lott had difficulty choking back his emotions as he announced Mr. Coverdell's death to several colleagues in the chamber.
"I have one of the most difficult things to do now that I've ever had to do since I've served as majority leader," Mr. Lott said. "And that is to announce that our beloved colleague from Georgia, Paul Coverdell, passed away today."
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, then led the Senate in a moment of silent prayer.
Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma, visibly shaken by the news, called Mr. Coverdell "a good friend, a fine leader, and a great senator for the people of Georgia."
Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, has the option of appointing a successor to Mr. Coverdell's seat until a special election in November will determine who serves the remaining four years of his term. Republicans now have a 54-45 edge in the Senate.
Mr. Coverdell's prime issue in the Senate in the past four years was education, especially his proposal to expand higher education savings accounts to allow tax-free withdrawals for K-12 school expenses.
Mr. Clinton vetoed the measure in 1998, and Mr. Coverdell had been pushing for the legislation again this year.
Praise for Mr. Coverdell was swift from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat, expressed "the grief we all feel for a man of peace. We have known him so well, and we will miss him so much."
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said he will miss Mr. Coverdell "not only for his ideas and hard work but also because of his good cheer and good will. He was an honorable man who brought to the public discourse good ideas and common-sense solutions."
Born on Jan. 20, 1939, in Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Coverdell served two years in the Army in Okinawa, Japan; South Korea and Taiwan before helping his parents start the family's Atlanta insurance and financial-services business.
He served 16 years in the Georgia Senate, where he and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich became the architects of the modern Republican Party in the state. He was the first Republican re-elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia since Reconstruction.
Mr. Coverdell met former President George Bush in the 1970s when he was in the state senate and Mr. Bush was ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Coverdell served as finance chairman in Georgia for Mr. Bush's 1980 presidential campaign.
In 1988, Mr. Coverdell served as Mr. Bush's Southern steering committee chairman. After Mr. Bush was elected president, Mr. Coverdell was tapped to lead the Peace Corps, a post he held until he resigned in 1991 to run for the U.S. Senate.
The former president also mourned Mr. Coverdell's death in a statement last night.
"Paul Coverdell was one of the kindest and most decent men I met in my entire life," he said. "We shall miss him as we would miss our own son."
Mr. Coverdell is survived by his wife, Nancy. They had no children.

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