Former Michigan Rep. Guy Vander Jagt, 75, who led House Republicans' election strategy for years and was a confidant of Gerald Ford before and during his presidency, died Friday at a hospice in Washington, D.C., after a battle with pancreatic cancer, said Steve Lotterer, a longtime aide.
Vander Jagt (pronounced VAN-der jack) began his political career in 1964 as a state senator and served in the U.S. House from 1966 to 1993. Known for his skill at oratory, he held various leadership posts.
For 18 years, from 1974 to 1992, he was also chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which helps GOP House candidates nationwide with fundraising, organization and strategy.
Vander Jagt forged his friendship with Ford while they served neighboring Michigan districts, at times sharing an office, Lotterer said.
In 1992, Vander Jagt was defeated in the Republican primary, a rare upset of a sitting congressman. He and other members of the Ways and Means Committee had come under heavy criticism after a taxpayer-funded trip to Barbados.
After leaving office, he was a public speaker and lobbyist.
Vander Jagt was born in Cadillac, Mich., in 1931, the son of a livestock dealer and farmer. He was a part-time preacher after high school and earned a divinity degree from Yale in 1957 after graduating from Hope College in Holland, Mich. He then got a law degree from the University of Michigan.