Former Congressman William F. Clinger Jr., who represented McKean County and a large portion of central, north central and northwest Pennsylvania for 18 years, has died.
His daughter, Bijou Clinger, wrote in a Facebook post that he passed away at the age of 92 on Friday.
“We are devastated, but know he is still noble, brave and hopeful,” she wrote.
Clinger, born April 4, 1929, in Warren, was first elected to Congress as a Republican in 1978, unseating one-term Democrat Joseph Ammerman of Curwensville, Clearfield County. Klinger served what was then the 23rd Congressional District of Pennsylvania through 1992.
The region was redistricted into Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District — with Clinger winning election for that seat in 1992 and then again in 1994. The sprawling 5th District was the largest in Pennsylvania in terms of land area and included some of the most remote parts of the state.
Clinger decided to retire from Congress in 1996 and did not seek re-election that year.
An advocate of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, Bradford Regional Airport and U.S. Route 219 during his tenure in Congress, Clinger served as chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight and he served as vice chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Always more of a policy wonk than partisan political figure on Capitol Hill, Clinger found himself more in the spotlight in his role as chairman of the primary House investigative committee on issues such as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s role in the 1993 firing of White House travel office personnel. Clinger also delved into whether the White House impeded a police investigation into the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge served in Congress, representing Erie, alongside Clinger.
“Bill Clinger was a kind, thoughtful and honorable man — a model of integrity, bipartisanship and civility that all those in public office would do well to emulate,” Ridge stated on his Twitter account. “He was my congressional neighbor and I will always be grateful for his friendship.”
After leaving Congress, Clinger served as chairman of the Chautauqua Institution board of trustees.
Chautauqua’s president, Michael E. Hill, said Tuesday that the former congressman “was a towering figure” in the nation and for the Institution.
“As an elected official, he served our neighbors in Warren County with tenacity and grace,” Hill said. “Current and future public servants would do well to look to his example of moral leadership.”
At Chautauqua, Hill said Clinger’s “steady hand as chair guided the Institution through some difficult days and prepared it for the heights of mission fulfillment we’re striving toward and realizing today. My heart goes out to Bill’s children Bijou, Will, Jim and Julia, and I join our Chautauqua family and regional community in both mourning a great loss and celebrating an extraordinary legacy.
“I adored the man, felt lucky to call him my friend and will miss him greatly.”
Clinger was also a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Governmental Studies. He had earned his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins and later earned a law degree from the University of Virginia.
By today’s standards a moderate Republican, Clinger twice opposed Donald Trump’s campaign for president.
About a month prior to the 2016 general election, Clinger was one of 30 former Republican members of Congress that signed off on a letter which suggested that Trump “has proven himself manifestly unqualified to be president.”
In doing so Clinger joined his Republican colleague, the late former Congressman Amo Houghton of Corning, N.Y., with whom Clinger had a strong working relationship on Capitol Hill, in denouncing Trump in his run against Hillary Clinton.
In 2020, Clinger again broke ranks with the majority of Republicans, joining a group of former GOP congressmen to endorse then Democratic candidate Joe Biden in his bid to unseat President Trump.