Former Congressman Ike Skelton Dies at 81

The Democratic Party member represented Missouri for 17 terms

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Rep. Ike Skelton on May 6, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Ike Skelton, a former Democratic Representative and well-known defense expert, died on Monday. He was 81.

For more than 30 years, Skelton represented western and central Missouri in the U.S. House. He died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington after a brief illness, the New York Times reports.

Skelton was first elected to the House in 1976 and served 17 congressional terms, including four years as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He joined law firm Husch Blackwell after his 2010 defeat by Republican Vicky Hartzler.

“Missouri lost a giant tonight,” Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said. “Ike Skelton represented the very best of Missouri, and fought tirelessly for the state he loved.”