Remembering Paul Gillmor

University and local officials are mourning the death of Republican U.S. Congressman Paul Gillmor, who spent more than 40 years in Ohio politics representing northwest Ohio cities including Bowling Green.

Gillmor, 68, was found dead in his Washington, D.C.-area townhouse late yesterday morning by two aides. They went to his home after he didn’t show up for a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the congressman’s death but he appears to have died of natural causes, Arlington, Va. police spokesman John Lisle told The Washington Post yesterday.

Gillmor was in Washington serving his tenth term in Congress representing the Ohio 5th District, which is made up of 16 counties in northwest Ohio including Wood County.

Several local politicians said they were shocked by the news of Gillmor’s death and praised his long congressional career.

“It takes a lot of work to cover a 16-county district – it takes a lot of time and dedication,” said Bob Latta, the Republican state representative for the 6th district. Latta lost a close congressional primary race to Gillmor in 1988.

In Congress, Gillmor served on the House Committee on Financial Services and as deputy minority whip. He was also the ranking member of the subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit.

Before being elected to the House of Representatives, the Tiffin, Ohio native spent 22 years – from 1966 to 1988 – in the Ohio Senate. He joined the Senate at age 27 and served three terms as senate president before moving to the House.

Gillmor’s communications director Bradley Mascho could not be reached for comment, but colleagues described the representative as an able politician.

“The one thing that struck me about Paul is that he was effective whether he was in the minority or the majority,” said Ohio Sen. Randy Gardner, who served with Gillmor in the Ohio legislature.

Although a staunch conservative, Gillmor recently drew praise from Democrats for his stance in the controversy surrounding former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

“He, as a Republican, came out for Attorney General Gonzalez to step down,” said Michael Zickar, chair of the Wood County Democratic Party and an associate professor in BGSU’s psychology department. “I really respected him for doing that.”

In addition to being involved in national issues, Gillmor was active in the city of Bowling Green and the BGSU campus community.

Last week, Gillmor held a town hall meeting at the Wood County District Public Library on Main Street where he advocated the development of alternative energy sources in Bowling Green and northwest Ohio.

On campus, University officials lauded Gillmor’s support of higher education.

Gillmor was a firm supporter of initiatives to reduce the cost of higher education and provided funding for University research and building projects, said Sandra MacNevin, the associate vice president of University relations and governmental affairs.

Gillmor was named an honorary alumnus of the University in 1992 in recognition of his work on behalf of BGSU in both the U.S. Congress and the Ohio Senate.

“He has been a great friend to the University. It’s a great loss to the University, district and state,” she said.

Gillmor was also active with BGSU’s College Republicans. CR Chair Dan Lipian described the congressman as a role model who provided funding and support for the club’s activities.

“He was a great help and a great mentor for all of us,” Lipian said.

There is no word on who will replace Gillmor in the House. According to Ohio law, Gov. Ted Strickland must declare a special election to determine a replacement. A date for the election has not been set.

“This is a time for mourning the passing of Congressman Gillmor,” said Keith Daily, Strickland’s press secretary. “These decisions will be made in due time.”

Late yesterday, the governor ordered U.S. and Ohio flags to be lowered to half staff across the state until sunset on Thursday to honor the late congressman.

Gillmor is survived by his wife, former Ohio State Senator Karen Gillmor and five children.

Editor- in-Chief Lisa Halverstadt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.