If politics is a question of balance, then Tillie Fowler was the answer.
The mourning for the just-deceased former congresswoman from Florida has reached deep into the halls of the U.S. Capitol and far across America. The 62-year-old Fowler was a political superhero; an antidote to the epidemic cynicism that surrounds the political process.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina was particularly devastated by the loss. Fowler once served with Dole at the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs. Their days together made them close, and no wonder. Fowler's grace, strength, humor and integrity could only have reminded Dole of her own husband, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. Like him, Fowler believed in the aptness of the political process as an extension of the worthiness of people.
Both Bob Dole and Fowler could laugh at themselves. I recall during the presidential campaign of 1996 that Dole appeared at a Republican National Convention private meeting and right away declared with a grin, "We're really going to get our butts kicked, aren't we?" He was referring to the upcoming election with Bill Clinton. And yet during the campaign, Dole displayed a fiery zeal in fighting for his beliefs.
Fowler displayed that same admirable sense of proportion. Like Bob Dole, she could rise up in righteous anger when she believed that government could -- and should -- help right a wrong.
I knew Tillie Fowler, but that is no claim to glory. If you were involved in the early days of the Republican Party's ascendance in the Sun Belt during the early 1990s, you were bound to know her.
She came from a prominent political family in Georgia. Her father, Culver Kidd, was a Georgia state senator. Her brother Rusty also made a name for himself. Neither outdistanced the lady of the family.
She won a congressional seat in north Florida in 1992, heading to Washington one term prior to the proclaimed "Republican Revolution." That's significant because the GOP's "Contract With America" appeared in 1994. And the only critical part of that contract that never became law was mandatory term limits for those in the House or Representatives and the Senate.
Never mind. Tillie Fowler imposed term limits on herself. She went into office having proclaimed that "Eight is Enough" -- that she would voluntarily leave Congress after serving four terms.
When the election of 2000 rolled around, Fowler was nothing less than the most powerful woman in Congress. Her political career was posed to ignite the afterburners and soar into the stratosphere of national media renown.