Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican, recently honored Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, a Democrat, who died last month with this tribute that Gingrey inserted into the Congressional Record:
“Isaac "Ike" Skelton was a consummate gentleman and a true class act. Ike was a humble man; he commonly referred to himself as a "country lawyer." He was a tireless champion of our servicemen and women, both on the battlefield and off. He loved his family and everyone who encountered him knew it. He served the people of Missouri for 34 years with dignity and grace, and he will be missed.
“In Congress, one often hears the phrase "my good friend" or "my friend across the aisle." Sometimes it can lose its meaning. But Ike and I had a close, personal friendship that extended far deeper than Washington’s definition of one.
“Ike and I served on the Armed Services Committee together for six years. During that time, in the context of our committee service, we talked often about military education, the roles and missions within our Armed Forces, and Ike’s famous book list. I accompanied him to Warm Springs, Georgia, where he received polio treatment as a teenager. The Warm Springs Foundation held a special place in his heart, and he spoke of the lessons he learned there often.
“In his farewell speech to the House of Representatives, he said:
"`…never let illness define you, never be limited by the expectations of others, never give up, and never stop working.’"
“Ike exemplified that sentiment in everything he did.
“Polio prevented him from serving our country in uniform, so he chose to serve members of our military instead. Ike used to say he looked at all of our troops as someone’s son or daughter. To that end, he worked with Democrats and Republicans alike to improve life for our military men and women. In his position as both Chairman and Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, he fought to ensure our troops had the necessary training, equipment and support on the frontlines. He worked to improve military housing and other services for them here at home.
“Several years ago, I had the privilege of attending the 8th and I Parade at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., where Ike was the guest of honor. It rained heavily that night, but like always, it was tough to dampen Ike’s spirits. I learned so much from Ike and I will truly miss him. Ike was a one-of-a-kind congressman, and this body would be far better off with more members of his caliber.
“Our country has lost a statesman, his family has lost a husband and father, our military has lost a champion, and many of us he worked or served with have lost a friend.”