WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Gladys Noon Spellman, stricken by a heart attack in 1980 and comatose since then, died Sunday in a nursing home here. She was 70.
Mrs. Spellman, a Democrat who represented Maryland's 5th District near Washington, was re-elected to her fourth term with 80% of the vote eight days after her heart stopped beating temporarily on Oct. 31, 1980.
Her House seat was declared vacant in 1981 after doctors said Mrs. Spellman, who was able to breath without life-support equipment, was in a "trance-like state" and unable to take the oath of office.
It was the first time the House vacated the seat of a member who had become mentally or physically disabled.
Democrat Steny Hoyer won a special election May 19, 1981, after a primary that included 32 Republican and Democratic candidates, including Mrs. Spellman's husband, Reuben.