MUNICH, West Germany — Bavarian Gov. Franz Josef Strauss, an ultraconservative politician who helped guide West Germany since World War II, died today after suffering a heart attack, the state government said. He was 73.
The Bavarian government said Strauss died at 11:45 a.m. in a hospital in the city of Regensburg.
Strauss, one of West Germany's most colorful politicians, had collapsed during a hunting trip Saturday.
The outspoken Strauss often had been at the center of national policy-making and had used international travels to wield influence over foreign policy as well.
"He was one of the architects of the Federal Republic (West Germany)," Bavarian Radio said in announcing his death.
In his native region, Strauss had achieved nearly legendary status.
His thick Bavarian accent, coupled with his sharp tongue, made the stocky governor one of West Germany's most recognized and controversial politicians.
He was the head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of the dominant Christian Democrats, which are headed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
In reaction to the death announcement, Kohl's office said that the chancellor was cutting short his official visit to the Far East to return to West Germany.
Strauss also served in a number of Cabinet posts, including minister of defense and of finance. In 1949, the year West Germany was founded, Strauss was elected to the Parliament and served until 1978 when he was elected governor of Bavaria.
In recent years, Strauss often used his base in Bavaria to steal the show from--and occasionally embarrass--Kohl.
As head of the fiercely proud "Free State of Bavaria," Strauss often greeted visiting dignitaries with red-carpet airport ceremonies of the kind usually given by heads of state.
One of those dignitaries was East German leader Erich Honecker, who visited Bavaria in September, 1985.