Foley who had spent recent months in hospice care, and died Friday morning, his wife, Heather, confirmed.
Foley, who served as speaker from 1989 to 1995, and was first elected in 1965 and represented Washington's 5th district until he was defeated in a reelection bid in 1995, become the first sitting speaker to lose his seat.
Born in Spokane and a graduate of Gonzaga University, Foley worked as a prosecuting attorney and later in the state attorney general's office. After his time in Congress, he was appointed ambassador to Japan by President Bill Clinton, and he served there from 1997 to 2001.
“Today, our country mourns the loss of a leader whose authenticity, dedication, and diplomacy will forever serve as an example to all of us who strive to make a difference through public service," Nancy Pelosi, the only Democrat who has served as speaker since Foley, said Friday. "It was an honor to serve with him as a colleague; it was a privilege to know him as a friend. We only hope it is a comfort to his wife, Heather, and his family that so many mourn their loss at this sad time.”
And current Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, added his condolences.
"Forthright and warm-hearted, Tom Foley endeared himself not only to the wheat farmers back home but also colleagues on both sides of the aisle," Boehner said in a statement. "That had a lot to do with his solid sense of fairness, which remains a model for any speaker or representative."
"Take it from the great Henry Hyde, who used to say of Tom, ‘I wish he were a Republican.’ With his passing, the House loses one of its most devoted servants, and the country loses a great statesman."