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Former US Congressman Henry Hyde Dies

Former U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde, recently honored with the nation's highest civilian award, has died.

The Republican congressman from Illinois was 83 years old.

Hyde's long service in the House of Representatives - he took office in 1975 and finished his last term earlier this year - was marked by a concern for a strong national defense and an advocacy of democratic values internationally.

Hyde's staunch opposition of abortion has a legacy in the Hyde Amendment, which virtually abolishes federal funding of the medical procedure.

President Bush paid tribute to Hyde today, calling him a fine man who believed in the power of freedom, and a "tireless champion of the weak and forgotten."

A newspaper in his home state, the Chicago Tribune, Thursday recalls "his courtly manners" and says he was "often seen as a throwback to a more genteel era in Washington" despite his role in some of the more divisive issues of his time.

Hyde's career saw him take the chairmanship of several powerful House committees, including International Relations and the Judiciary.

He also served as one of the managers of the impeachment proceedings in 1998 against former President Bill Clinton. The inquiry into whether Mr. Clinton had lied under oath about relations with a young intern led to the revelation that Hyde himself had a four-year affair while married.

Hyde defended his affair as a "youthful indiscretion" -- despite his being in his 40's at the time.

The congressman, who had been in declining health, chose not to run for re-election in 2006.

Ill health prevented him from attending a White House ceremony earlier this month - he was represented by his son - to accept the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom.