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Joe M. Rodgers

U.S. ambassador to France in '80s

February 13, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Joe M. Rodgers, 75, who served as U.S. ambassador to France during the 1980s, died Feb. 2 at his home in Nashville after battling cancer.

Long active in Republican Party politics, Rodgers served as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee for three years beginning in 1979. He also served as national finance chairman for President Reagan's reelection campaign in 1984. Reagan appointed him ambassador to France in 1985 for a four-year term. His ties to Reagan stretched back to 1976, when he was the Tennessee finance chairman for Reagan's primary campaign against President Ford.

Rodgers was born in Bay Minette, Ala., on Nov. 12, 1933, and grew up in Montgomery, Ala. He earned a civil engineering degree at the University of Alabama and served three years in the Coast Guard.

In the 1960s and '70s, his firm, Joe M. Rodgers and Associates Inc., built more than 200 hospitals for the Hospital Corp. of America.

After suffering a heart attack in 1977, Rodgers sold a majority stake in his company and moved into real estate development.

After returning from France, Rodgers served as chairman of the Tennessee Family Institute, an affiliate of the evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family.

In 2008, he served as co-chairman for the presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.).

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