Washington, DC - Congressman Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo, San Francisco), 80, passed away this morning due to complications from cancer at Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
Elected to office in 1980, Lantos was Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and one of the country’s leading champions of human rights. His commitment to this issue was forged when, as a young man, he lost nearly his entire family in the Holocaust.
Today he was surrounded by his wife, two daughters, and many of his 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
After being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late December, Lantos announced on January 2 that he would not seek reelection. He said at the time, "It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.”
The only survivor of the Shoah ever elected to Congress, Tom Lantos was in his 14th term. His Democratic colleagues elected him chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in January 2007. He was also a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Throughout his adult life Lantos sought to be a voice for human rights and civil liberties. He and Annette Lantos, his childhood sweetheart and wife of nearly 58 years were, as Lantos put it, “full partners both in Congress and in life,” and they continued their work right up to his final days. Tom Lantos was the founding co-chairman of the 24-year-old Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which Annette directed as a volunteer since its inception. He also founded the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus.
Annette said that her husband’s life was “defined by courage, optimism, and unwavering dedication to his principles and to his family.”
The date for a public memorial service has not yet been set.