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Gingrich Wins Encore, Mourns Dad

Thu., Nov. 21, 1996

House Speaker Newt Gingrich grappled with an emotional tug-of-war being waged within him on Wednesday.

Just hours after learning that his father had succumbed to lung cancer, the 53-year-old Georgia congressman was chosen for the second time by unanimous voice vote as the Republican Party’s nominee for the speakership.

If that coincidence of timing was not enough to overwhelm him, fate also chose to toss in a bit of emotional brutality - Wednesday was also his mother’s birthday.

Kathleen Gingrich’s husband died at 12:11 a.m., 11 minutes into her 71st birthday. Her son learned of his father’s passing when he called his mother to wish her a happy birthday.

In between congratulations from friends and colleagues for his political victory Gingrich was still trying to track down one of his two daughters to inform her of her grandfather’s death.

Robert Gingrich, 71, a decorated officer in the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam and Korea, is expected to be buried on Saturday in Pennsylvania.

On Jan. 7, his adopted son is poised to be elected as the first two-term Republican speaker in 68 years.

The clash of Gingrich’s political accomplishments and his families’ sorrow capped a campaign season dominated by negative advertising and attacks directed mostly at the controversial speaker.

In his acceptance speech, he called the moment “bittersweet,” and when tears came to the eyes of the often emotional speaker, they were tinged with joy and sorrow and, perhaps, exhaustion.

“There is a poignancy to this week, not just today, that is much deeper and emotional than would ever have existed without all this happening at once,” Gingrich said in an interview on the balcony outside his office in the U.S. Capitol.

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