LITTLE ROCK — All four members of Arkansas’ U.S. House delegation paid tribute on the House floor Tuesday to former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, who died April 1 at age 92.

LITTLE ROCK — All four members of Arkansas’ U.S. House delegation paid tribute on the House floor Tuesday to former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, who died April 1 at age 92.


Hammerschmidt served 26 years in Congress representing Arkansas’s 3rd Congressional District. He was first elected in 1966, becoming the first Arkansas Republican sent to Washington since Reconstruction.


Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said on the House floor, in comments aired live on C-SPAN, that Hammerschmidt was "a dedicated public servant, a respected businessman, a decorated combat veteran and a trusted mentor."


Womack said Hammerschmidt graduated from Harrison High School at age 15 and spent a year a The Citadel before joining the Army Air Corps and piloting 217 combat missions in World War II.


After the war, Hammerschmidt returned to Harrison to run the family lumber business and continued his service as a member of the Air Force Reserve until 1960, Womack said.


"During his 26-year tenure in Congress, John Paul never spent a single day in the majority, but he didn’t let that stand in the way of serving his constituents to the best of his ability. He worked with all colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike, to our state’s benefit and is responsible for bringing the critical transportation infrastructure to Northwest Arkansas that enabled its explosive growth," Womack said.


Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said Hammerschmidt "helped build the airport and interstates that allowed Northwest Arkansas to blossom into the success story it is today."


"Congressman Hammerschmidt truly embodied the spirit of public service, and his legacy is a powerful reminder for all public servants of why we’re here and who we represent," Crawford said.


Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said it was legislation by Hammerschmidt that made the Buffalo River the country’s first national river, ensuring its protection and preservation. He also spoke of Hammerschmidt’s decades of friendship with former President George H.W. Bush, noting that they serve together in the Air Force and as freshmen in Congress.


"I’m humbled to have the opportunity to know and learn so much from Congressman Hammerschmidt. He will be greatly missed," Hill said.


Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said Hammerschmidt was "a tireless advocate for all his constituents on both sides of the aisle and worked hardest to do what was right for the citizens of Arkansas."


"Congressman Hammerschmidt was from the beautiful Ozark hills, and many times the people of Arkansas and America were blessed by the leadership of a gentleman from the hills who served his creator by serving others," Westerman said.