Former Rep. Olin E. (Tiger) Teague (D-Tex.), a hero of World War II who became the author of more legislation designed to benefit veterans than any other member of Congress, died yesterday at Bethesda Naval Hospital of renal failure and a heart attack. He was 70.
During his 32 years in Congress, Mr. Teague was chairman of the House Veterans Committee from 1955 to 1972. He then served as chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, which was responsible for legislation affecting the space program, until his retirement in 1979. He was a member of the House Ethics Committee and from 1971 to 1975 was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Mr. Teague was first elected to Congress in 1946 while still in a hospital recovering from wounds sustained during his Army service in Europe. His injuries were so severe that he had a pronounced limp for the rest of his life. In 1977, the lower part of his left leg was amputated.
Asked once why he chose to go into government, Mr. Teague recalled landing on Utah Beach a week after the Normandy invasion. "I saw hundreds of bodies stacked up," he said. "I started thinking about what causes hell like that and I decided it was government. I wanted to do something about it."
Mr. Teague enlisted in the Army in 1940, received a commission as a second lieutenant of infantry, and rose to command a battalion of the 79th Infantry Division. During six months of combat, he won three Silver Star medals, three Bronze Star medals, three Purple Heart medals and the Combat Infantryman's Badge. When he finally left the hospital after two years of treatment, he held the rank of full colonel.
Strong support from veterans groups helped Mr. Teague win his first political victory as representative from Texas' huge 6th Congressional District, which stretches from just north of Houston to just south of Dallas.
A notably popular figure among his colleagues on Capitol Hill, where he had a reputation for being tight with money except where veterans and the space and defense programs were concerned, Mr. Teague supported the war in Vietnam. He criticized the news media for "trying to sell their own ideas on which is good for the country under the guise of objective reporting" about that conflict. He himself made two trips to Vietnam for President Johnson.
In 1971, he castigated the media for largely ignoring a report by a blue ribbon defense panel that said the Soviet Union was gaining military superiority over the United States. Instead of reporting such matters, he said, reporters were "harping daily on what is wrong with America in Vietnam."
Mr. Teague, who was born in Woodward, Okla., lived much of his life in College Station, Tex., where he graduated from Texas A&M University. He got the nickname "Tiger" for his prowess as a 120-pound high school football player and a varsity baseball player in college. From 1932 to 1940, he was superintendent of the College Station Post Office.
Survivors include his wife, the former Freddie Dunman, whom he married on Dec. 30, 1932, of Washington; two sons, John O., of College Station, and James M. of Glenview, Ill.; a daughter, Jill Cochran of Rockville; three sisters, Mildred Forbes of Mena, Ark., and Madge and Mabel Teague both of San Antonio, and six grandchildren.