Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Howard Wolpe, who helped pass the federal anti-apartheid act in 1986, has died. He was 71.
The seven-term congressman had recently been ill with a heart condition, former staffer Ken Brock said Wednesday. He died Tuesday at his home in Saugatuck.
Wolpe, who also unsuccessfully sought the governor's office in Michigan, served in Congress from 1979-1992. As chair of the U.S House Subcommittee on Africa, he authored and managed legislation imposing sanctions against South Africa for its system of white-minority rule.
Wolpe also later served as Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region under President Bill Clinton "where he initiated peace talks and helped end civil wars in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo," Democratic Rep. John Dingell said in a statement.
"He was exceptionally bright and exceptionally committed to his mission," said Battle Creek Dr. Joe Schwarz, who teaches at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "He had a real deep and abiding interest in African affairs where he made his name in Congress."
Wolpe later served as director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Before his election to Congress, Wolpe was a city commissioner in Kalamazoo and a member of Michigan's House of Representatives. After serving in Congress, Wolpe lost to Republican Gov. John Engler in Engler's 1994 re-election bid.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow was Wolpe's running mate in 1994.
"He dedicated his life to public service and brought the kind of civility to politics that is sorely missing today," she said. "He stood for justice for people at home and across the world."
Wolpe also taught at Western Michigan University, Michigan State and the University of Michigan.
He is survived by his wife, Julie Fletcher, and son, Michael, from a previous marriage.