WASHINGTON — Stanford Parris, 80, who served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from northern Virginia’s 8th District, died Saturday of heart disease at his Mathews County, Va., home.

Parris, who was a lawyer and car dealer before entering politics, was first elected in 1972, then returned to Congress from 1981 to 1991. A onetime Air Force fighter pilot, he survived several hard-fought campaigns and was among the first Republicans to gain a foothold in modern-day Virginia politics.

During his first term in Congress, he won the gratitude of football fans by introducing a bill prohibiting the National Football League from having TV blackouts of sold-out games. He also helped transfer control of Dulles and National airports from the Federal Aviation Administration to a regional airport authority.

As ranking Republican on the House District Committee, he was a persistent critic of the District of Columbia government and often quarreled with former Mayor Marion Barry.

Parris possessed a blunt style that served him well on the campaign trail. He had three epic electoral battles with Democratic Rep. Herbert Harris, losing in 1974 before ousting Harris from Congress in 1980. Parris defeated Harris in a rematch in 1982, spending $700,000 in Virginia’s most expensive congressional campaign up to that point.

“They were tough campaigns,” recalled U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. “They were almost like the Lincoln-Douglas debates.”

Describing his political approach to The Washington Post in 1989, Parris said: “Somewhere along the line, I learned the best thing to do was to simply stand up and say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you commit to.”

Stanford Elmer Parris was born Sept. 9, 1929, in Champaign, Ill., and was a graduate of the University of Illinois.

During the Korean War, he piloted fighter jets and was once rescued after being shot down over North Korea. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and Air Medal.

He graduated from George Washington University law school in 1958, settled in Fairfax, Va., and practiced law. He later owned car dealerships in Prince William County, Va.

After serving on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1969, as one of nine Republicans in the body. He was Virginia’s secretary of the commonwealth in 1978.

Parris lost the Republican nomination for governor in 1985 and 1989 and failed in a bid for the Virginia state senate in 1995. After losing his congressional seat to Democrat James Moran in 1990, he was administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. and was a counsel to the law firm of Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin and Oshinsky.

He also founded the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealeton, Va., where he took part in aerobatic demonstrations.

His first two marriages ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Martha Harper Parris; three children from his first marriage; and two grandsons.


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