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Tom Lewis, 78; Fla. Congressman From 1983 to '94

August 04, 2003|From Associated Press

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Former Rep. Tom Lewis, who served in two wars before his 12 years in Congress, died at a Palm Beach hospital Saturday, his daughter said. He was 78. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Lewis, a North Palm Beach Republican, served in the House from 1983 through 1994. He sat on the Science and Technology Committee and was instrumental in saving the Hurricane Hunter Plane Program, which sends planes out to gather hurricane data for meteorologists.

"It's one of the reasons why, when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, it wasn't as devastating as it could have been," said Lewis' daughter, Mickey Bowman.

Rep. Mark Foley, who represents Lewis' former district, remembered Lewis on Saturday as one of Florida's "finest public servants" and said in a statement: "I looked up to Tom Lewis as a fine gentleman who possessed the characteristics we should all strive for: decency, honesty and an unselfish devotion to helping others."

Lewis, born in Philadelphia, was a member of the U.S. military for 11 years and served tours of duty during World War II and in Korea. He later worked as a jet and rocket testing chief for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.

Before being elected to the U.S. House, Lewis served as mayor and city councilman in North Palm Beach from 1964 to 1971. He was a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1980 and the Florida Senate from 1980 to 1982.

The stretch of U.S. 27 that runs through Palm Beach County is named for Lewis and his wife, Marian, also a former member of the Florida House. The couple led a campaign that resulted in $66 million of improvements to the road, which had been a narrow, two-lane stretch where more than 100 people died from 1982 through 1997.

In addition to his daughter, Lewis is survived by his wife, two other children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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