- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

Thomas Kleppe, a former congressman from North Dakota and U.S. interior secretary, died March 2 at his home in Bethesda. He had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. He was 87.

Mr. Kleppe served as secretary of the interior from October 1975 to January 1977, during President Ford’s administration, after working as administrator of the federal Small Business Administration under President Nixon.

Mr. Kleppe, a Republican, moved to Washington in 1966 after he was elected to the U.S. House from North Dakota’s West District. North Dakota had two seats in Congress at the time; the West District vanished after the 1970 census, and the state has had only one U.S. representative since then.

A native of Kintyre in south-central North Dakota, Mr. Kleppe was elected mayor of Bismarck in 1950, at the time the youngest mayor in the city’s history.

Mr. Kleppe and George Bush, now a former president, were elected to Congress on the same day in 1966 “and instantly became the best of friends,” Mr. Bush told the Bismarck Tribune. “Tom Kleppe represented the best in public service. He loved North Dakota and he loved his country.

“To sum it all up, Tom Kleppe was a good man, and I loved him,” Mr. Bush said.

Survivors include his wife, Glen; three daughters, Jill McClelland of Bethesda, Janis Cunningham of Walland, Tenn., and Jane Sutermeister, of Bluemont, Va.; a son, Thomas Kleppe, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; and 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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