Former Hill Staffer Hyde Murray Dies
By Tricia Miller
Roll Call Staff
April 8, 2009, 2:11 p.m.
Longtime Congressional aide Hyde Murray died Friday after a battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 78.
A force on the Hill, particularly on agricultural issues, Murray was named Roll Call's Staffer of the Year in 1967. In the course of his lengthy House career, he spent more than 20 years as minority counsel on the House Agriculture Committee and almost a decade as counsel to the Minority Leader.
Murray was born in Ogdensburg, Wis., on Aug. 2, 1930. His father, Reid Murray, became a Congressman representing the 7th district in 1939 and served until his death in 1952.
The son studied agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and then served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War, eventually being recognized for his bravery with United Nations and National Defense medals. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law School in 1956.
After a brief stint at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hyde Murray began his career on Capitol Hill as minority counsel on the House Agriculture Committee in 1958. He became the go-to Republican aide on agricultural issues, serving the minority party consistently as the Democratic chairmen changed three times. During this time, he was tapped for a variety of leadership positions related to his agricultural and Congressional expertise.
In 1980, he left the committee to work for Minority Leader John Rhodes (R-Ariz.). He stayed with Rhodes' successor, Bob Michel (R-Ill.), until he left the Hill for good in 1989.
Fowler West, a Democrat who served as staff director on the Agriculture Committee while Murray was minority counsel, remembers that in his final few years in a Cannon office, Murray was looking out for fellow staffers. He maintained a job bank, and out-of-work Hill staffers would come to get his advice
"If you went over there, there were always people sitting around to see Hyde," West said. "No appointment necessary, but it was about jobs."Murray closed out his career as a lawyer and as an assistant director of national affairs at the American Farm Bureau Federation. In retirement, he stayed busy even as his health deteriorated, organizing events at his assisted-living facility, working with charities and mostly finishing his autobiography, which his family will publish. His papers and those of his father are saved at the Poage Library at Baylor University. Murray is survived by his wife, Nancy Vander Hyde, and their two children. His daughter, Merri Carol Martens, told West that "Dad referred to his death as a change of address." A viewing and Masonic ceremony will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. April 17 at the A.J. Holly Funeral Home in Waupaca, Wis. A church service will be held at 11 a.m. the next day at the Ogdensburg Lutheran Church, and Murray will be buried at Park Cemetery in Ogdensburg.