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William Coyne, former congressman from Oakland, dies

2001 file photo of then-Rep. William Coyne.

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Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 6:51 p.m.
 

Rep. William Coyne didn't have legislation that he bragged of, federal facilities with his name on them or monuments in Oakland to more than two decades of service in representing Pittsburgh in Washington.

Instead, friends say, he had a reputation for being a proud, quiet and tireless advocate, getting things done for his city.

“The word that is often used to describe him is ‘quiet,' ” said his nephew, Dan Coyne of Highland Park. “But that gave a little bit of a false impression of how passionate he was.”

William Coyne, a former Democratic state representative, Pittsburgh councilman and 22-year member of Congress, died Sunday morning in UPMC Mercy of complications from a fall this summer. He was 77.

Raised on Halket Street in Oakland, Coyne graduated from Central Catholic High School and Robert Morris University, served in the Army, and was stationed in Korea from 1955-57, his nephew said.

He was a state representative from 1971-73 and served on City Council from 1974-80 before being elected to Congress.

“Back in Pittsburgh, everybody knew Billy Coyne, but he wasn't a media hound,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, who served his first eight years in Congress alongside Coyne before their districts were combined.

“Bill was a classic Pittsburgher who grew up and lived in the same house all of his life” said former Mayor Tom Murphy.

“He never adopted that Washington disconnect that sometimes happens to elected officials. He remained humble and kept the values that he grew up with,” said Murphy.

On the House Ways and Means Committee, Coyne secured funding for the East Busway, initiated tax credits for cleaning up brownfields and promoted the creation of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, while supporting bills promoting civil rights, workers rights and Internal Revenue Service reform, said Coleman Conroy, Coyne's chief of staff for his entire time in Congress.

The Software Engineering Institute in Oakland was the result of cooperation between Coyne and the late Republican Sen. John Heinz, but he wouldn't claim credit for legislation or big projects in his district, Doyle said.

Coyne spent his retirement under the radar.

He traveled back and forth several times to Ireland, where the family had relatives and an old farm, Dan Coyne said.

“He took great pride in showing us around, showing us the small town the Coynes came from,” he said of a trip the family took together about five years ago.

Coyne was preceded in death by his parents and his siblings Jim, Sara, Rita, Mary and Margaret. He is survived by his brother, Phil Coyne of Oakland, and many nieces and nephews. Funeral arrangements with John A. Freyvogel & Sons are pending.

Staff writer Salena Zito contributed to this report. Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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