- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — John Spencer, who played a tough and dedicated politico who survived a serious illness to run for vice president on “The West Wing,” died of a heart attack yesterday. He was 58.

Mr. Spencer died at a Los Angeles hospital, said his publicist, Ron Hofmann. He would have been 59 next week.

Mr. Spencer played Leo McGarry, the savvy and powerful chief of staff to President Jeb Bartlet (Martin Sheen), on the NBC series. In a sad parallel to life, Mr. Spencer’s character suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his White House job.

The character recovered and was picked as a running mate for Democratic presidential contender Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits; the campaign against Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) has been a central theme for the drama this season.

“We’re shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden death of our friend and colleague,” Aaron Sorkin, who created the series, and Tommy Schlamme, one of the original executive producers, said in a joint statement.

“John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor. We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He’ll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends,” they stated.

Mr. Spencer, who also starred on “L.A. Law” as attorney Tommy Mullaney, received an Emmy Award for his performance on “The West Wing” in 2002 and was nominated four other times for the series.

Service and funeral arrangements were pending, Mr. Hofmann said.

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