Dante Fascell, a Florida Democrat in Congress for 38 years who played a leading role in U.S. foreign policy as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has died of colon cancer. He was 81.
He died Saturday night at his home in Clearwater, said Barbara Burris van Voorst, Fascell's press secretary until 1992, when Fascell retired.
His service in Congress spanned the terms of eight presidents, beginning with his election in 1954. He took over chairmanship of the foreign affairs committee in 1984, and held it until his retirement.
In an interview last year with Associated Press, Fascell said he was particularly proud of his work in the struggle for human rights overseas, especially with the "refuseniks" who were denied permission to leave the former Soviet bloc.
He also was proud of his support for U.S. assistance to very poor countries.
Fellow committee member Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) said Fascell had a hand in almost every significant foreign policy move made by the United States from the 1960s into the 1990s.
Fascell is survived by his wife, Jeanne-Marie, two daughters and three grandchildren.