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Tower remembered as cornerstone of GOP

By MIKE RABUN

DALLAS -- John Tower was remembered by one of his closest associates Friday as, 'the cornerstone of the Republican Party,' who brought intellect and reason to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

'He was not a backslapping politician,' said Paul Eggers, a one- time Republican gubernatorial candidate in Texas and a long-time Tower friend. 'He was a very intelligent man. I was in Washington many times and saw him operate on the floor of the Senate. He brought reason to debate on the floor.'

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Tower, the first Republican since Reconstruction to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas, died Friday in a Georgia plane crash that also killed his daughter, Marian, and 17 other people.

In Los Angeles, President Bush called Tower's death, 'a tragic loss. '

'I started with John Tower in politics in Texas 30 years ago,' Bush said, 'and we became friends then, and we remain friends until this very monent. It's very sad.'

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Tower's power base was built in Dallas, where he still maintained an office as a military consultant.

Eggers was one of his best friends and spoke with Tower Thursday night.

'We talked about Sen. (John) Heinz (the senior senator from Pennsylvania who was killed Thursday in the collision of a light plane and helicopter). John was physically moved by that tragedy.

'And John endured one of the great tragedy's of his own life when the position of secretary of defense was taken from him. He would have been in Washington instead of Georgia if he had been appointed secretary. I'm in a state of shock over this.

'I feel he was the cornerstone of the Republican Party.'

Tower was nominated by Bush in 1988 to be defense secretary, but he was rejected by the Senate amid allegations of alcoholism and womanizing.

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, was one of those who benefited from Tower's success in boosting the Republican Party in the state.

'Sen. Tower was my friend,' Gramm said. 'His loss, and that of his daughter, constitute a monumental personal tragedy.

'All his life, John Tower stood tall for Texas and for America. His passing leaves a void in the hearts of those who knew and loved him and America will be that much poorer without his leadership.

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'I know of no one in public life who has possessed a larger sense of America's greatness and destiny than John Tower and I know no one who did more to assure America's future.'

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., Armed Services Committee chairman and a leading foe of Tower's nomination, said he was 'deeply saddened.' Nunn was the target of criticism from Tower in a new autobiography.

'America has lost a patriot,' Nunn said. 'Senator Tower's love of country and belief in a strong national defense characterized his many years of distinguished public service. ... He fought for freedom and worked diligently to make the world more secure.'

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, nominated by Bush after Senate rejection of Tower, said the former Senator 'was one of America's most powerful advocates of a strong military.

'He played a pivotal role in designing today's armed forces, and the nation owes him a deep debt of gratitude for the years he spent securing the force that the United States deployed in the Persian Gulf,' Cheney said.

Former Texas Gov. John Connally and recently elected Gov. Ann Richards praised Tower's role in fighting for his native state.

'He was a great Texan and an outstanding American,' Connally said. 'He made an enormous contribution to this country over the length of his service and I am truly saddened about it.'

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'John Tower and I did not agree politically,' Richards said, 'but he worked hard for this state and I mourn his death.'

Republican leaders around the state and the nation said they wanted to remember Tower for his leadership role in their party.

'John Tower was a tower of strength,' said former Dallas County GOP Chairman Bill McKenzie. 'He made rational decisions. He was a leader.'

'It takes from us a man who dedicated his life to serving his state and his country,' said Republican National Committee Chairman Clayton Yeutter. 'John was a giant among his colleagues, among world leaders, and in the Republican Party.'

'It is extremely difficult for those of us at the Republican Party of Texas to imagine life without John Tower,' said Texas Republican Chairman Fred Meyer. 'For many years, John Tower was the Republican Party of Texas and he has continued to be one of the first people we look to whenever we need guidance, leadership and direction.

'John Tower believed freedom in our world is best served when America is strong and willing to stand up for peace and we owe much to his steadfast leadership in promoting a strong national defense.

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'We grieve for his family and for this country on the loss of a great statesman.'

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