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Politics & Government

Former Congressman Bill Coyne dies

Former longtime Pittsburgh Democratic Congressman William Coyne has died at the age of 77.

Coyne's executive assistant, Jamie Rooney, said Coyne died Sunday at UPMC Mercy hospital following complications from a fall two months ago.

Coyne was a state representative from 1971 to 1973 then spent six years on Pittsburgh City Council before he became a Congressman in 1981. He served in that post until retiring in 2003.

Former Mayor Tom Murphy said Coyne was a "classic Pittsburgher who grew up and lived in the same house all his life. He never adopted that Washington disconnect that sometimes happens to elected officials."

Instead, Murphy says, Coyne "remained humble and kept the values that he grew up with."

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said, “Pittsburgh has lost a champion today. During Bill's 11 terms in Congress, as well as his service in the state legislature and City Council, he never lost sight of the fact that he served Pittsburghers.”

Ritzgerald said Coyne will be remembered as a man who stood up for those who were unable stand up for themselves. 

“His influence, congeniality and sense of purpose represented Pittsburgh like Pittsburgh itself," Fitzgerald said.  

Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) remembered Coyne as a true Pittsburgher who normally worked behind the scenes.

He said Coyne was brought up in the “old school” age and didn’t like to brag about himself or seek publicity.

As a result of the 2000 census, Pennsylvania lost two congressional seats and, during redistricting, Doyle and Coyne’s districts were merged meaning they would have to run against one another in a primary.

Doyle said, at that time, he’d been in Congress eight years compared to Coyne’s 22.

“And I thought to myself ‘Well this is the end of my career. There’s no way I can beat Bill Coyne in the City of Pittsburgh,” said Doyle.  “I mean the guy was beloved there.”

Doyle said Coyne called him with unexpected news soon after.

“He said “Mike. It’s Billy.’ And I said ‘Billy what’s up?’ He said ‘I’m just calling to let you know I’m not going to run against you. I’m going to retire.’ And I was stunned,” said Doyle. “In true Bill Coyne fashion he kept it to himself, never said what he was going to do and then I got that phone call.”

The John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc. Funeral Home is handling arrangements, which were incomplete early Monday.