- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - In a story Nov. 4 about the death of former U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Coble won his initial 1984 congressional race by 79 votes. Coble won in 1984 by about 2,700 votes, according to election results. The 79-vote margin occurred in 1986.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Former US Rep. Coble dies at age 84, served for 30 years

Howard Coble, longest-serving Republican US House member in North Carolina history, dies at 84


Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Former U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, whose penchant for old-time politicking, humor and courtesy parlayed him into becoming the longest-serving Republican U.S. House member in North Carolina history, has died. He was 84.

Coble, who served for 30 years on Capitol Hill before declining to run for re-election in 2014, died just before midnight Tuesday at a Greensboro hospital, his nephew Ray Coble Jr. said Wednesday. He had been hospitalized since September after treatment for skin cancer - a long-running condition for him - and the removal of some lymph nodes, Coble Jr. said.

Coble cited nagging health issues in announcing in 2013 that his 15th term in Congress representing the 6th District would be his last. He had a long military and political career, including nearly 30 years in the Coast Guard. He was an assistant federal prosecutor, state revenue secretary under Gov. Jim Holshouser and state House member before his initial 1984 congressional victory by about 2,700 votes. Coble won two years later by just 79 votes.

“North Carolina not only lost a wonderful public servant and congressmen, but our state also lost a friend and mentor to so many, including myself,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement.

Coble, who never married, was a throwback to previous generations of politicians who focused less on ideology and more on relationships, showing up at hundreds of local parades and Boy Scout Eagle Scout ceremonies during his congressional tenure.

Often seen wearing a fedora and madras-patched sport jackets, Coble made his career by shaking hands with constituents in the 6th District, which most recently included several north-central counties, anchored by Greensboro, where he was born. Even as the district boundaries changed with each round of redistricting, Coble prided himself on asking passers-by where they went to high school. He could recite each school’s mascot.

Coble said he always knew there was a short leash on members of Congress, who were up for election every two years.

“I held that seat, folks, subject to two-year leases, subject to revocation or renewal,” Coble said during his 2013 announcement to retire. “Renewal’s always better given that choice.”

That familiarity still wasn’t good enough for some Republicans who challenged him in the 2010 and 2012 primaries, saying he wasn’t conservative enough. One Greensboro-area political scientist labeled Coble’s voting record as “very conservative but he doesn’t sound always so conservative. He says it a qualified way.”

While working on Capitol Hill, Coble may have been best known for refusing to take a congressional pension in the name of fiscal conservatism - a decision that probably cost him more than $2 million over his lifetime. Coble said in 2013 refusing the pension was “the most stupid financial decision” he ever made but believed the retirement was too generous for members and should be reduced.

He also regretted his vote to send troops in Iraq in the early 2000s because he said there was no post-entry strategy.

Coble got attention in the late 1990s by leading a House subcommittee on intellectual property issues and the Internet as the Internet’s influence grew exponentially. The panel’s actions over changes to copyright laws infuriated some recording artists, bringing Don Henley, formerly of The Eagles, and Coble to loggerheads.

Coble received criticism from Japanese-Americans in 2003 for saying on a radio show that the World War II internment of citizens of Japanese descent was for their own protection. He said he regretted that his comments caused offense.

In the end, Coble had friends on both sides of the aisle, as reflected in the accolades he received from congressional colleagues as he left Capitol Hill last year.

“In an era where our politics are too often characterized by excessive partisanship and animosity, Howard’s camaraderie, good humor, and generosity of spirit reflected the best of what this institution can be,” U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., who like Coble joined the House in the mid-1980s.

Coble’s funeral arrangements hadn’t been worked out Wednesday.

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