Robert L.F. Sikes, 88, a former member of Congress from Florida who was credited with bringing to his district one of the heaviest concentrations of military bases in the country, died Sept. 28 in Crestview, Fla. He had Alzheimer's disease.
Near the end of a 38-year career in which he became one of the most powerful figures on Capitol Hill, Mr. Sikes was reprimanded by his colleagues for ethical breaches involving his private investments and relations with defense contractors.
A South Georgia farm boy who grew up to be a conservative Democrat, Mr. Sikes relished the nickname "He Coon." He described it as a raccoon who could "keep off his enemies and protect his own -- he was simply supposed to look after those around him who depended upon him."
That is what Mr. Sikes did for Florida's 1st Congressional District, a nine-county tract of piney woods, swamp and prime Gulf of Mexico coastline in the Florida Panhandle. Except for a brief period of Army service in World War II, he represented the area from 1940 to 1978.
In all, the 1st District is home to 14 military installations. Mr. Sikes, who became chairman of the House Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, got credit for the presence of most of them, including Pensacola Naval Air Station and Eglin Air Force Base, which covers more than 700 square miles.
In the late 1970s, it was estimated that the federal military presence added $500 million annually to the economy of the 1st District, once a backwater of rural poverty.
While helping his constituents, Mr. Sikes allegedly used his position in Congress to prosper, and in 1976 the House reprimanded him.
Acting on a complaint brought by the citizens group Common Cause, it found that he had been unethical in failing to disclose stock interests he held in defense contractors, in promoting the establishment of a bank at a naval base in his district and then becoming a large stockholder in it, and by sponsoring legislation that allowed the development of prime beach-front property in which he held an interest.
Mr. Sikes denied any wrongdoing and blamed the press for his troubles. "The press had fun because they love to see blood flow from a conservative, and my blood was flowing," he said.
The voters of his district agreed and promptly gave him a new term with more than 70 percent of the ballots.
In 1977, the House Democratic caucus voted to strip Mr. Sikes of his committee chairmanships, and steps were taken to write new ethics laws. In 1978, Mr. Sikes announced he would retire from Congress.
Mr. Sikes was born on a farm near Sylvester, Ga. He graduated from the University of Georgia and received a master's degree in business from the University of Florida. In the 1930s, he published the Okaloosa News-Journal in Crestview. He also was active in Democratic politics, and from 1936 to 1940 he served in the Florida Legislature.
He came to Congress in the opening months of World War II, and he was a supporter of a strong military posture from the beginning. He backed President Franklin D. Roosevelt in authorizing the lend-lease program to send supplies to Britain and other allies, and he never wavered from the view that too much defense is better than too little.
After leaving Congress, Mr. Sikes returned to Florida and tended his business interests. He had an office in a library in Crestview that was named in his honor.
He was married twice and is survived by two children.
GEORGE ALBERT SMITH
George Albert Smith, 70, an engineer who had worked at the National Security Agency and later served as president of Trace Laboratories in Linthicum, Md., died of lung cancer Sept. 28 at his home in Crownsville.
Mr. Smith was born in Manchester, N.H., and grew up in Washington. He graduated from Abbott Vocational School. During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific.
After the war, he operated a construction business until 1953, then joined the National Security Agency as an engineering manager specializing in advanced materials technology. He retired in 1980.
After leaving federal service, Mr. Smith began working at Trace Laboratories, which specializes in testing electrical components. He retired there as president in 1990.
Since then he had lived in Avon Park, Fla., and in Crownsville.
Mr. Smith was the first president of the Palisades Civic Association in Crownsville and a former general chairman of the Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits.
Survivors include his wife, Marie C. Smith of Crownsville and Avon Park; five children, Ross Smith of Bethesda, Susan Wicen of Sellersville, Pa., Jonathan Smith of Annapolis, Joyce Rhodes of Glen Burnie and Nancy Altman of Rising Sun, Md.; a brother, Arthur E. Smith of Owings, Md.; two sisters, Louise Marie Rogers of Waldorf and Amy Yvonne Cooksey of Forestville; and nine grandchildren.
BESSIE R. LAVINE
Bessie R. Lavine, 92, a secretary who retired in 1964 after 11 years with the Central Intelligence Agency, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 23 at the Rockville Nursing Home, where she had been a patient since 1992.
Miss Lavine was born in Syracuse, N.Y. She moved to the Washington area in 1927 and later attended George Washington University. She worked for many years for the Navy Department, first in Hampton Roads, Va., and later at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington.
She was a volunteer with the motor corps unit of the American Red Cross during World War II and honorary vice president of the Sisterhood of Temple Sinai in Washington.
Survivors include a sister, Estelle L. Sharon of Rockville.
CHRISTINE FREDONIA RAMER WERNER
Former Bethesda Resident
Christine Fredonia Ramer Werner, 80, a former resident of Bethesda, where she was a member of Christ Lutheran Church, died of cancer Sept. 28 at her home in Wilmington, Del.
Mrs. Werner was born in State College, Pa. She studied nursing in West Chester, Pa.
She moved to the Washington area from California in 1963, and she had done volunteer work at D.C. General Hospital.
In 1977, she moved to Wilmington after the death of her first husband, Joseph Ramer.
Survivors include her husband of seven years, Carney S. Werner of Wilmington; three children from her first marriage, Barry J. Ramer of Fox River Grove, Ill., Bonnie Ramer Pritchard of Elizabethton, Tenn., and Joanne Ramer Waters of Wilmington; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.