WASHINGTON - Banking lobbyists remembered former House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez, who died Tuesday at age 84, as a respected adversary.
Mr. Gonzalez, who had been ailing on and off since 1997, died in a San Antonio hospital. Family members had taken him to the hospital after he awoke Tuesday feeling ill, said a spokesman for his son, Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez, D-Tex. The cause of death was not given.
"He did not agree with us on a lot of issues, but he always did it in a gentlemanly manner," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. He "moved to the beat of his own drummer," but "you had to admire and respect him, because he was doing what he thought was right."
Mr. Gonzalez, a Democrat who spent 37 years representing the San Antonio district his son now serves, was House Banking Chairman from 1988 to 1994. After Democrats lost control of the House, was the panel's ranking member until his retirement in 1998.
His legacy includes legislation authorizing the federal government bailout of the savings and loan industry and defeat of a massive deregulation bill backed by banks. Mr. Gonzalez was also known as a champion of affordable housing and for his efforts to shed light on the Federal Reserve Board's operations.
The native Texan took on his own party in exposing the excesses of the savings and loan industry, including the efforts of Lincoln Savings and Loan leader Charles F. Keating to influence five Senators - four of them Democrats - involved in industry oversight.
Mr. Gonzalez also blocked former President Bush's sweeping deregulation initiative that would have, among other things, permitted commercial and industrial concerns to own banks.
Kenneth A. Guenther, the executive vice president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said Mr. Gonzalez's positions on deregulation and more openness at the Fed, which were widely unpopular with bankers at the time, have proven to be good ones.
"He took a populist stand against ever-increasing financial concentration," Mr. Guenther said. "That led to a more gradualist approach, which probably turned out to be best for the evolution of the American financial system, making our system the strongest in the world."
Industry-watchers recalled Mr. Gonzalez's sharp intellect, which they say was often veiled behind a folksy style, and his penchant for extraordinarily long meetings. "You'd meet with the chairman for an early breakfast, and at 11 a.m. you'd still be there talking with him," Mr. Guenther said.