- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

Rep. Floyd D. Spence, South Carolina Republican and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, died yesterday after remaining in a coma following brain surgery one week ago.
The 73-year-old lawmaker suffered from a host of serious illnesses, and underwent surgery Aug. 9 at the Mississippi-based St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital to remove a large blood clot in his brain.
Mr. Spence had been on life support to help him breathe since the surgery, and on Saturday, Mr. Spence's brother, Allan Spence, said the family would soon be faced with the a life-or-death decision.
His office last night released a brief statement that Mr. Spence died at 5:40 p.m. Central time, with his wife and family by his side. His body will be taken home to South Carolina today.
"His timeless efforts on behalf of our national defense are a testimony to his enduring will to serve and to triumph in the face of adversity. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today," Gov. Jim Hodges told the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.
Mr. Spence was diagnosed in July with a facial nerve disorder called Bell's palsy. He had received a kidney transplant in May 2000. In 1988, he became the fourth American to undergo a highly experimental double lung transplant.
Mr. Spence was a member of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Lexington, S.C., where he served on the church council and as a Sunday school teacher. He also sat on the advisory board of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia.
Mr. Spence began his political career in 1956 as a Democrat in the state House, but switched to the Republican Party in 1962 two years before Sen. Strom Thurmond pioneering the development of a two-party system in the then-Democrat-dominated state.
"He felt the Democratic Party was moving to the left and out of tune with the people of South Carolina," Republican state Sen. Joe Wilson said in 1988. The Columbia newspaper said Mr. Wilson is a close friend of Mr. Spence and a likely successor.
A special election will be held to fill his seat in the heavily Republican district in central South Carolina. Mr. Spence beat Democratic challenger Jane Fredrick in 1998 with 58 percent of the vote, and won 90 percent of the vote in the 1996 election against a token third-party candidate.
He was first elected to Congress in 1970, where he was a supporter of a strong national defense, a fiscal conservative, and co-author of "The Case Against the Reckless Congress."
"I make no bones about the fact my No. 1 priority is defending this country," he said in a 1998 interview.
An old-fashioned Southern gentleman and staunch conservative, Mr. Spence voted in favor of the four articles of impeachment against President Clinton and opposed abortion.
During the Clinton administration, Mr. Spence chaired the Armed Services Committee and fought for increased military spending, especially in his home district. He led Republican attacks against the administration for undercutting combat readiness by spreading resources and cutting spending.
Mr. Spence succeeded in passing legislation to streamline the process of weapons procurement and tightening restrictions on supercomputer exports to Russia and China for nuclear weapons development.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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