Former Rep. Ken Gray dies at 89

Former Rep. Ken Gray (D-Ill.) died Saturday at the age of 89, according to multiple reports.

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A funeral home in West Frankfort, Ill., said Sunday that Gray died at a hospital in Herrin, Ill., after a long illness, according to The Associated Press.

Gray, nicknamed the “Prince of Pork” for bringing federal projects to his southern Illinois district, was first elected to Congress in 1954 and resigned in 1974. He was elected again in 1984 and served for two more terms.

According to KFVS TV, those projects includes the creation of Interstate 57 in southern Illinois and a federal prison in Marion, Ill.

Gray, who was born in West Frankfort, Ill., served in the Air Force and Army in North Africa and Europe during World War II, according to his congressional biography. He owned a car dealership and operated an air service before being elected to Congress.

"I was saddened to learn of Kenny Gray's passing on Saturday,” Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill) said in a statement. “Kenny was a larger than life advocate for southern Illinois with a legacy that brought us Rend Lake and the Interstate Highway System. In a era of bland politicians, I remember Kenny's colorful personality fondly. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Toedy as well as his family and friends in West Frankfort and across the state."

“Saddened to hear of the passing of another dear friend, Ken Gray,” Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.) wrote on his Facebook page. “As Congressman, Ken was a colorful character and true advocate for the people of Southern Illinois. He will be dearly missed.”

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