Former U.S. Sen. George A. Smathers, who represented Florida from 1951 to 1969, died today after suffering a stroke. He was 93.
Smathers was a polished, dashing politician who forged friendships with presidents, waged war against communism, voted against several civil rights bills and was an early voice cautioning of Fidel Castro's rise to power in Cuba.
The Democrat, who served two terms in the U.S. House and three in the Senate, had suffered a stroke Monday. He lived in Indian Creek Village, an exclusive island community outside Miami.
Smathers was among a new breed of congressmen, along with John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, who arrived on Capitol Hill in the late 1940s with a worldliness that few before them had brought.
Shaped by World War II duty in the Marines, Smathers used his more than two decades in Washington to focus on international issues and fight the spread of communism.
The senator was a political force who managed to unseat familiar faces, garner the ears of the powerful and stake a place as a moderate able to straddle both sides of the aisle.