Former Oklahoma Republican Senator and family physician Tom Coburn died on Saturday at the age of 72.
His family released a statement following his death: “Tom A. Coburn, MD, beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away peacefully at home this morning surrounded by his family. Because of his strong faith, he rested in the hope found in John 11:25, where Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, will live, even though they die.’ Today he lives in heaven.”
Coburn, who continued to serve patients even while in Congress, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and served three consecutive terms until 2001. He then served two consecutive terms in the Senate where he was first elected in 2004. Coburn retired before the end of his second term in 2015. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013, but stated at the time that the prognosis did not influence his decision.
Coburn was nicknamed “Dr. No” by Democrats, because of his strong beliefs regarding fiscal responsibility and against increased government spending.
In their article reporting on Coburn’s death, The Oklahoman, his home state newspaper, printed then-President Barack Obama’s words on Coburn after he resigned in 2014. “Tom and I entered the Senate at the same time, becoming friends after our wives struck up a conversation at an orientation dinner. And even though we haven’t always agreed politically, we’ve found ways to work together — to make government more transparent, cut down on earmarks, and fight to reduce wasteful spending and make our tax system fairer. The people of Oklahoma have been well-served by this ‘country doctor from Muskogee’ over the past nine years,” the former president said at the time.
Messages from politicians poured in to remember Coburn. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted: “Senator Tom Coburn was a great conservative voice in the United States Congress and American physician whose legacy will live on. Karen and I send our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family during this tough time.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement in which he called Coburn “a whip-smart legislator with rock-solid principles.”
“Seventy-two years was far too few for someone this brilliant, this tireless, and this dedicated to serving others. The Senate mourns our friend. We stand in prayer with his beloved wife Carolyn, their daughters Sarah, Katie, and Callie, and the entire Coburn family,” McConnell stated.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham sent out his condolences: “Very, very sad to hear the passing of my dear friend Tom Coburn. He was truly ‘Mr. Smith goes to Washington.’ Very glad his suffering is over and he is now with the Lord. Tom was a great senator, a terrific husband and father, and a dear friend.”
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is also known for his staunch views against bloated government spending, tweeted: “Rest In Peace Tom. Kelley and I are praying for the entire family. A Republican, who believed that deficits, do indeed matter.”
Maine Senator Susan Collins also tweeted out words of comfort for Coburn’s family: “I am saddened by the passing of my friend and former colleague, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Tom was a man of deep faith and strong convictions who cared deeply for his family and our country. May God bless his wife Carolyn and daughters during this difficult time and always.”
MSNBC Morning Joe host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough tweeted out a picture of an embrace between Coburn and Obama: “Tom Coburn was a good friend and a hero for his strong stand for small government. He was fearless politically and a man of great faith. I called him over the past few months and he was in good spirits. He knew he had fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”