Representative John Murtha, the first Vietnam Veteran to win a congressional seat in 1974 mid-term elections after the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Murtha died of complications from gall badder surgery. He was 77.
Known as the king of pork (congressional spending) for his district in western Pennsylvania including a rarely used airport.
In the 1980 Murtha was caught on FBI surveillance videotape in the ABSCAM case refusing to accept a $50,000 bribe. While signaling he might take more money in the future.
“We do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested and maybe I won’t,” Murtha said on the tape.
Six congressmen and one senator convicted. Murtha was named by federal prosecutors as an un-indicted co-conspirator. He testified against two congressman in the case.
For years Murtha was a pro military congressman until 2005 when he turned against Iraq War. Murtha did not like the Bush Administration handling of the war. In 2006 He made allegations against eight Marines of killing Iraqi civilians “in cold blood” at Haditha, Iraq, after one Marine died and two were wounded by a roadside bomb.
Critics of Murtha of making the Marines of guilty without a trial and fueled retaliation against the truth.
“This is the kind of war you have to win the hearts and minds of the people,” Murtha said. “And we’re set back every time something like this happens.”
In 2008 the republicans used Murtha’s words against him in TV ad accusing the people of his congressional district in southwest Pennsylvania. Murtha barely won his district.
Murtha is survived by his wife Joyce and the three children and grandchildren.