Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr., Democratic House Speaker
WASHINGTON — THOMAS P. (TIP) O'NEILL JR. practiced the trade of local politics from Cambridge, Mass., to government's highest councils, a career that spanned from the Great Depression to the Space Age. He died Wednesday.
The House Speaker under President Reagan arrived in Washington the unknown successor of then-Rep. John F. Kennedy and left 35 years later the nation's leading Democrat. His book ``All Politics is Local'' was just published.
He played the part of door-to-door Boston-Irish pol with relish. But Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, knew better. ``He was able to hold the old-timers, and he was absolutely current in terms of the modern politics,'' Senator Kennedy said.
O'Neill showed independence early. In 1967 and 1974, respectively, he became the House leadership's first member to publicly oppose President Johnson on the Vietnam War and to suggest President Nixon resign.
But his soft touch was felt by many. When Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York carried Congressional Black Caucus concerns into a meeting with O'Neill, he forgot the issue. ``After he got finished telling me about the Irish, I was crying,'' Mr. Rangel told caucus members later.