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A Moving Tribute to Henry Hyde

Our friends at Family Research Council devote the entirety of today’s Washington Update to Mr. Hyde’s passing. I normally wouldn’t repost something in its entirety, but it’s such a moving piece that I hope FRC won’t mind, just this once.

Pro-Life Movement Loses a Champion, Inherits a Legacy

Henry Hyde The death of former Congressman Henry Hyde this second-to-last day of November caught us all by surprise. Henry Hyde was 83, and our prayers went with him when we heard that he was undergoing heart surgery recently, so in that sense this news could not be a shock. But it still is, especially when it is a heart as mighty and a mind as compelling as Henry’s that are now at final rest.

Henry John Hyde was a figure without parallel in Congress, a man admired as an orator, honored as a leader, and distinguished as an intellectual force who shaped domestic and foreign policy throughout his career. But even that description falls short of capturing the essence of what Hyde accomplished during his 32 years in the House of Representatives, and long before that in the United States Navy in World War II, at Georgetown University and Loyola University Law School, as a trial attorney, member of the Illinois House of Representatives, and, for those who knew him well, as a stellar athlete.

It is only fitting that Henry was a son of Illinois’s Cook County. His were “big shoulders” too, like the city of Chicago he called home, and in one memorable NCAA basketball tournament semifinal Hyde used those big shoulders to get the better of DePaul’s George Mikan, future Hall of Famer and the first dominant post player in the game. Hyde and Mikan, also from Illinois, became lifelong friends.

In fact, Hyde had an incredible ability to test and best opponents in every arena while retaining their respect. His was the most eloquent voice of our time on the question of the sanctity of human life, and it was his passion and presence that carried debate after debate on the House floor on the legislation that bore his name. The Hyde Amendment secured a firewall between the American taxpayer and the taking of innocent human life. No debate was ever concluded until Hyde, speaking without notes or other prompts, rose in the well of the House to interpose his great frame and incredible voice to shield the weakest and smallest in our midst, the unborn.

Before he spoke on such occasions, you could sense the extraordinary anticipation in that hushed chamber. In this life now, that hush will endure and his living voice will be heard no more. But it is being heard with a special power now somewhere else. Hyde once asked audiences to imagine a scene that is not really that far away for all of us:

When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God and a terror will rip through your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, “Spare him because he loved us,” and God will look at you and say not, “Did you succeed?” but “Did you try?”

Henry Hyde tried with every fiber of his being: to champion the weak, to honor mothers, to cherish life, and to advance liberty. He lived long enough to see communist tyranny collapse and the tide turn in favor of protecting human life. No figure of our time did more to bring these victories, one achieved, another now glimpsed, to pass.

Our deepest condolences go out to the Hyde family and to all who mourn his loss today.