Former Congressman, Blue Dog Co-Founder, Bill Brewster Dies
MARIETTA, Okla. — Former Rep. Bill Brewster, who served three terms in Congress and was a co-founder of the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats, died Monday after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 80.
Brewster, a graduate of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, was a pharmacist and rancher before he first ran for elective office in 1983.
He served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1983 until 1990, and then won election to represent the state’s 3rd Congressional District, replacing fellow Democrat Wes Watkins.
But Brewster’s election to Congress was bittersweet. On the day he announced his campaign, a plane carrying two of his children and two family friends crashed. All four were killed.
Brewster and his wife, Suzie, who survives him, as does a daughter, Karel, decided to continue the campaign.
During his three terms, Brewster was a popular figure on Capitol Hill and built a reputation for being both pro-Oklahoma and pro-business.
In 1995, he was among a then small group of moderate Democrats who got together regularly to talk about the party’s defeat in the 1994 congressional election and to chart a way forward.
Those talks quickly led to the formation of the Blue Dogs, who from the very start were advocates for fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense and bipartisan consensus rather than conflict with Republicans.
In a statement, the current co-chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition — Reps. Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, Ed Case of Hawaii, Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Kurt Schrader of Oregon — called Brewster “a tireless advocate for positive change in the lives of all Americans.”
“We honor him for his commitment to the national security and fiscal stability of our great nation and his dedication to the people of Oklahoma,” they said, adding, “his legacy will always live on in the halls of Congress.”
Fellow Oklahoman, Republican Rep. Tom Cole, recalled in a statement how he and Brewster first met when both served in the Oklahoma Legislature in the late 1980s.
“He represented a community where part of my extended family lived. While we belonged to different parties, we quickly became fast friends, often working across the aisle as fellow conservatives supporting issues like right-to-work and tort reform,” Cole said.
“Bill went on to serve three terms in Congress. He was a bipartisan conservative Democrat who often found common cause with his Republican counterparts, just as he had in the Oklahoma Legislature,” the representative continued.
“No one was better at building the bipartisan coalitions that it takes to accomplish things in Washington, D.C.,” Cole said, describing his longtime friend as “a doer as opposed to being a complainer.”
“He worked with both parties to advance the conservative causes and Oklahoma interests that he championed throughout his career both in and out of public service,” he said.
“Bill, Suzie and their family are very much in my thoughts and prayers. We have lost a great Oklahoman, and I have lost a dear and very special friend,” Cole added.
Brewster’s body will lie in state at the Oklahoma state Capitol on Thursday, with Gov. Kevin Stitt, former Rep. Dan Boren and Republican state Rep. Kevin Wallace expected to speak.
After retiring from Congress, Brewster became an accomplished lobbyist in Washington, representing a variety of Oklahoma-based interests and institutions.
In a statement released after his death, Capitol Hill Consulting Group, which he founded, said “to know Bill Brewster and to enjoy his personality and generous character truly was a privilege.”
“Bill was a perfectionist and did everything in life with passion and an unwavering commitment to excellence. Whether his role as a husband, father, grandfather, friend, businessman, congressman, conservationist or outdoorsman, Bill was a consummate leader and his impact immeasurable,” the statement said.
“Throughout his life’s journey, Bill was made stronger and more successful because of his best friend and fiercest advocate, his wife Suzie. Suzie, Karel, Braxton and the entire Brewster family will remain in our thoughts and prayers. Today, we reflect and celebrate the life of a man who was bigger than life and are so much richer having known him,” the firm added.
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue
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