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Democrat Congressman John Murtha Dead at 77

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has died at the age of 77 from complications following gall bladder surgery. He had been in intensive care at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA.

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Murtha represented Pennsylvania for 36 years, and was the longest serving Congressman from the state. He wielded considerable clout for two decades as a leader of the House subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending.

But frustration over the Iraq war led him to call for an immediate pullout of U.S. troops in 2005.

Murtha was under scrutiny and an ethics cloud for his ties to the now-defunct lobbying firm PMA at the time of his death.

Born June 17, 1932, John Patrick Murtha delivered newspapers and worked at a gas station before graduating from Ramsay High School in Mount Pleasant.

Military service was in Murtha's blood. He said his great-grandfather served in the Civil War, his father and three uncles in World War II, and his brothers in the Marine Corps.

He left Washington and Jefferson College in 1952 to join the Marines, where he rose through the ranks to become a drill instructor at Parris Island, S.C., and later served in the 2nd Marine Division.

Murtha moved back to Johnstown and remained with the Marine Reserves until he volunteered to go to Vietnam. He served as an intelligence officer there from 1966 to 1967 and received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

After his discharge from the Marines, Murtha ran a small business in Johnstown. He went to the University of Pittsburgh on the GI Bill of rights, graduating in 1962 with a degree in economics.

He served in the Pennsylvania House in Harrisburg from 1969 until he was elected to Congress in a special election in 1974. In 1990, he retired from the Marine Reserves as a colonel.

"Ever since I was a young boy, I had two goals in life — I wanted to be a colonel in the Marine Corps and a member of Congress," Murtha wrote in his 2004 book, "From Vietnam to 9/11."

In 2007 and 2008, Murtha and two fellow Democrats on the subcommittee directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying PMA to get them government business.

Between 1989 and 2009, Murtha collected more than $2.3 million in campaign contributions from PMA's lobbyists and corporate clients, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money.