FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Mark Souder, who represented northeast Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 15 years, died after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was 72.
The Grabill native beat Democratic incumbent Jill Long Thompson as part of the 1994 Republican “Contract With America” wave that ended Democratic control of the House after 40 years.
Souder was known as an “independent-thinking Republican,” according to Michael Wolf, chair of the Political Science department at Purdue Fort Wayne.
Wolf noted Souder was part of the forceful group of newer Republicans (including Lindsey Graham and Steve Largent) who tried to oust Newt Gingrich as Speaker in 1997. Souder was also the rare Republican who did not vote for all three articles of impeachment against former President Bill Clinton.
“Only five Republicans voted against any of the articles and Souder was clearly the most conservative and was lobbied heavily by the House’s Republican leadership,” Wolf said.
Souder spoke out forcefully against Clinton’s extra-marital relationship and then resigned when he failed to live up to his own Hoosier family values.
In 2010, Souder fought tears during his resignation announcement, admitting to a relationship with a part-time staffer. “I am so ashamed to have hurt those I loved.”
He said the fight to stay in office was not worth the cost to his family. “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon and twisted for political gain.”
“Mark Souder judged his life and work by a idealized code,” said Andrew Downs, former director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at PFW. “He knew he failed along the way, but he kept trying to reach that ideal. That takes work and should be respected even if you didn’t like his code.”
Reflecting in an August, 2022 Facebook post, Souder wrote that “God clubbed me over the head and said, ‘resign now – you blew it, your time is done.'”
He and his wife Diane remained together and stayed in rural Allen County after his time in Washington.
Souder wrote on Facebook this year that he considered his wife’s forgiveness a miracle but did not expect a miraculous healing of his cancer.
“Life is a series of [miracles] if you believe,” he wrote.
Souder was a huge baseball fan, particularly of the Chicago White Sox. He seemed personally offended during the Congressional investigation into the steroid scandal that shook Major League Baseball in the early 2000’s.
The Baltimore Sun reported on his exasperation. “How in the world are we supposed to learn anything useful, let alone pass good legislation, if witnesses keep saying they won’t talk about the past?” said Souder, who served as chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources. “What if Richard Nixon had said that? What if we approached Enron [executives] that way?”
Souder proposed MLB clean up its act and begin to test players who showed significant on-field improvements, telling the New York Times “Statistical anomalies don’t prove anything, but they lead to more likelihood. As you get older, do your statistics get better? That would be one thing to look for.”
Souder used his knowledge of baseball stats in fantasy baseball leagues with friends and fellow fans. He didn’t play for money, just for fun. At times, he gave league members an insider’s view.
“He would tell stories about what went on behind the scenes [during the steroid investigation],” recalled Lee Tobin, Sr. VP and GM at radio stations WAJI, WLDE and ALT 99.5 & 102.3FM. “He knew who the prospects were, not just on the White Sox, but on whatever team had the most promising prospects. He was really involved on a day to day basis.”
Souder continued to adjust his team lineups during his cancer fight until just days before he was placed on hospice in late August.
“We didn’t talk politics. We didn’t talk radio. We talked pretty much baseball,” said Tobin. “It’s the fun competitiveness that I’ll miss.”
Services have not yet been announced.