Former Rep. Richard Ichord, the last chairman of the subversive-hunting, highly controversial House Un-American Activities Committee, died Friday at the age of 66.
Ichord had been comatose and in critical condition at Nevada City Hospital since suffering a heart attack Dec. 18, said his daughter, Pam Ichord Ehlers.
A conservative Democrat from southern Missouri who drew controversy for advocating limited U.S. chemical warfare capability, Ichord retired from Congress in 1981 after 10 terms.
He fought charges of repression and red-baiting to keep the House Un-American Activities Committee--later named the Internal Security Committee--in operation. Ichord served six years as chairman of the panel.
In 1975, during his battle to keep the committee alive, Ichord said he remained "concerned about the threat of subversion today." But the House voted 259 to 150 to kill the committee by shifting its jurisdiction to the Judiciary Committee.
The committee was created in 1945 and pursued fiercely controversial investigations of alleged communists. Richard M. Nixon, then a young congressman from California, vaulted into the national spotlight by conducting anti-communist investigations under the panel's authority.
Ichord, whose district included the Army's Ft. Leonard Wood, also was a member of the Armed Services Committee. He chaired the Armed Services subcommittee on research and design, which allowed him to boost new technologies for the military.
Upon Ichord's retirement, he received the Pentagon's Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the military's highest honor for civilian contributions.
After leaving office, Ichord worked as a Washington lawyer and lobbyist and was a member of several corporate boards.
Ichord served in the Navy during World War II and attended the University of Missouri, earning a bachelor's degree in 1949 and a law degree in 1952. He was elected to Missouri's House of Representatives in 1952 and served four terms, including one as speaker.