Jimmy Quillen, 87, who was Tennessee's longest-serving congressman with 34 years in office, died Sunday in a hospital in Kingsport, Tenn. The cause was congestive heart failure.
Quillen, a Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 to 1997, was so popular that Democrats rarely backed a candidate to oppose him. In Congress, he helped pass a bill that made it a federal crime to desecrate the U.S. flag -- a law the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled unconstitutional. He also won state and federal funding for a new medical school at East Tennessee State University.
Born in Wayland, Va., one of 10 children of a sharecropper, Quillen grew up in Kingsport, Tenn. He served in the Navy during World War II.
Quillen worked for the Kingsport Times and Press newspapers in the 1930s and was founding publisher of the Kingsport Mirror and the Johnson City Times. He served in the state legislature from 1955 to 1962.