John E. Porter, who represented Chicago’s northern suburbs for two decades in Congress and helped increase funding for biomedical research has died, his family announced. He was 87.
In a statement, the Porter family said the former congressman died Friday after a recent hospitalization. The statement did not specify a cause of death.
Porter, a Republican, represented Illinois’ 10th District in Congress from 1980 to 2001. A staunch fiscal conservative, Porter also held moderate social views, backing abortion rights and gun control — positions that are almost unheard of in today’s Republican Party. Among other things, he helped lead the successful effort that created the 1994 assault weapons ban, which has since expired. He also was a supporter of international human rights and helped increase funding for scientific and biomedical research.
“The whole rough-and-tumble of classless politics was anathema to his character,” Mark Kirk, who succeeded Porter in the U.S. House before being elected U.S. senator in 2010, told the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald. “The district wanted an independent leader, and he was that independent leader.”
Kirk, who started as an intern in Porter’s office becoming its chief of staff, said Porter’s main legacy was “in doubling funding for the National Institutes of Health and funding the unlocking of the human genome.”
When he retired, Port said he was most proud of that work and helping to create the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a voluntary group that worked to identify, track and end human rights violations all over the world.
“We have probably offended every single government on earth,” he said, according to the Daily Herald. “But they deserved to be offended.”
Eight years ago, the National Institutes of Health dedicated the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Porter is survived by his spouse, Amy, children and stepchildren, John, David, Annie, Robyn, Donna, McKay and Michelle, and 14 grandchildren.
In its statement, Porter’s family said services will be held this month in Virginia and that another service will be held in Illinois over the summer.