Rep. Leo J. Ryan's heavy schedule of foreign travel was a major issue in his recent political campaign, but the voters of San Mateo County, California, south of San Francisco, overwhelmingly re-elected him to a fourth term in the U.S. House.
He was a congressman who liked to see for himself, to check out the situation personally before taking a position or casting a vote.
Ryan, who was 53, was killed Saturday on a visit to the steamy South American nation of Guyana to check out a religious cult founded by a San Francisco man.
Ryan, a Democrat, was generally considered a liberal, but he had substantial support in his home district from the wealthy Republicans of Hillsborough and Burlingame as well as the workers in the industrial north of the county.
He was looking forward to an increasingly active role as a member of the House International Relations Committee and chairman of the Environment, Energy and Natural Re-sources Subcommittee.
Ryan also served on the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee and on the board of directors of Gallaudet College in Washington.
As chairman of the environmental subcommittee, Ryan had investigated whether the Auburn Dam being built in northern California would be earthquake-proof. He was sharply critical of assurances by the Bureau of Reclamation.
Ryan went on his tragic, last trip to check out reports of beatings and other abuses at a Guyanan religious settlement run by Jim Jones, a former San Francisco city official.
Rep. Lester Wolff, D-N.Y., a fellow member of the International Relations Committee, called Ryan one of a "whole new breed of investigative congressmen ... who go out to see things for themselves."
Ryan was born in Lincoln, Neb., on May 5, 1925. He attended grammar school in Andover, Mass., and later earned a B.S. degree from Creighton University and an M.S. from Boston College. He was a Navy submariner during World War II.
Ryan was a state legislator for 10 years and the author of legislation requiring teachers to have credentials in subjects they teach.
He wrote "Understanding California Government and Politics" and edited the book, "The USA: From Where We Stand."
He was a Roman Catholic and a twice-divorced father of five.