Former Rep. John Y. McCollister, a three-term Republican from Nebraska with deep roots in the state’s political establishment, has died at age 92. His son, John S. McCollister, told The Associated Press that his father died Friday morning after suffering from cancer.
He was first elected to the House in 1970 and left after his third term in 1977, following an unsuccessful Senate bid which he lost to Omaha Mayor Ed Zorinsky in the general election.
“John McCollister will be remembered by many as a former Congressman and Douglas County Commissioner, but he will be remembered by many more as a role model and friend. He dedicated his life to his family, his faith and his service to our state and nation — like so many from his generation, John truly led by example,” Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said in a statement.
“Today, Nebraska lost a principled fighter, our state Republican party lost a great leader, and I lost a dear friend. Congressman McCollister was devoted to public service for the entirety of his life, including his military service during World War II,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said in a statement.
Fischer went on to emphasize that, even after McCollister left the House, “He remained an indispensable member of his community, even in his later years. He truly loved Nebraska and was a gentleman with a great sense of humor who simply enjoyed life to its fullest.”
McCollister also provided a future senator and Defense secretary, Republican Chuck Hagel, with his first job in Washington, the AP reported.
In a statement, Hagel mourned the man he called his mentor.
“I was deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of former Nebraska Rep. John Y. McCollister, who was my friend and mentor for more than four decades. ... I was honored that he gave me the opportunity to serve on his Congressional staff in the 1970s. I learned about public service and being an elected representative from John Y. He did it right. He was the model. He was a wise, balanced, and a complete leader, and one of the finest public servants I have ever known. I will always be indebted to him for placing his trust and confidence in me, and for his continued friendship and advice over the years.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.