The State of the Union Address Tuesday night gave us pause once again to remember former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley, who died last October at 84. Foley was a Pacific Northwest native who never forgot his roots.
Tom Foley was a native of Spokane. Both of his grandparents arrived in eastern Washington before the turn of the 20th century. He was raised in a politically active family; he graduated from Gonzaga High School and attended both Gonzaga University and the University of Washington.
Throughout his more than thirty years in Congress, including five as speaker, Foley never forgot the people of eastern Washington, according to Foley scholar Kenton Bird, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho:
Kenton Bird: “He had an incredible memory for faces and names; he had repo ire with farmers, railroad workers, bankers and business owners, with college students.”
Bird recalled accompanying Foley on a trip to a nursing home in Colfax and watching as Foley called everyone by name.
Bird says that Foley knew federal farm policy inside and out, which led to his chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee, a position Foley used to educate House members from urban areas on just how agriculture policies impacted people from all across the country.