Frank Horton, Former Dean of House Delegation, Dies at 84

SEPT. 2, 2004             by Wolfgang Saxon

Frank Jefferson Horton, a Rockefeller Republican from Rochester and the former dean of New York's Congressional delegation, died on Monday at a hospital in Winchester, Va. He was 84 and lived in Bentonville, Va.

The cause was a stroke, said his son Frank.

Representative Horton retired in 1992 after 30 years in the House representing a district covering much of Monroe and neighboring counties.

He used his seniority on various key committees to benefit his district and state. Known as one of the least partisan House members, he voted more often with like-minded Democrats than with the Reagan or Bush administrations.

Frank Horton was born in rural Cuero, Tex., the son of a railroad worker. After attending public schools in Baton Rouge, he graduated from Louisiana State University in 1941 and served with the Army in North Africa and Italy until 1945.

He received his law degree from Cornell University in 1947 and practiced in Rochester before his election in 1962. As the ranking Republican on the Government Operations Committee, he had considerable influence, often behind the scenes.

He was instrumental in placing inspectors general as financial watchdogs in federal departments, and in passing the 1989 Whistleblowers Protection Act, which was intended to shield federal employees who expose waste, fraud and abuse from reprisals.

He deftly maneuvered to steer New York colleagues into important committee slots and sometimes boasted of being the only member of a minority party to serve as chairman of a state Congressional delegation. His tenure ended when population shifts prompted large-scale redistricting and left states like New York with fewer House seats.

After Capitol Hill, he joined what is now the firm of Venable, Baetjer & Howell in Vienna, Va. He was of counsel to the firm until his retirement two years ago.

Besides his son Frank, a resident of Lorton, Va., Mr. Horton is survived by his wife of 24 years, Nancy Richmond Horton; and a son from an earlier marriage, Steven W., of Bellevue, Wash.; and four grandchildren. His first marriage, to Marjorie Wilcox Horton, ended in divorce.