Mr. Houghton (pronounced HOE-ton), a Harvard-educated businessman and Marine Corps veteran, entered politics at age 60, after spending 19 years as chief executive of the business started by his great-great-grandfather in 1851.
Public service was a family tradition. In 1986, Mr. Houghton, the son and grandson of ambassadors, was encouraged to run for an open congressional seat in a district that included Corning, Elmira and parts of the Rochester suburbs — Upstate New York’s so-called Southern Tier.
Mr. Houghton, whose nickname was Amo, was a Republican centrist who looked to Nelson Rockefeller, Dwight D. Eisenhower and other stalwarts of the postwar Grand Old Party as examples of living a life of service. One of the richest members in Congress, thanks to Corning stock and other investments, he was a fiscal conservative and social-policy moderate, and he clashed repeatedly with the GOP’s emerging Southern faction.
“Houghton is a warm and thoughtful patrician who loathes the hyper-partisanship that has enveloped the Capitol,” Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote after Mr. Houghton declined to seek reelection in 2004.
Mr. Houghton, who backed abortion rights and more federal funding for the arts, helped found the Republican Main Street Partnership as a forum for moderate GOP members of Congress. In 2002, he voted against giving President George W. Bush the broad authority to invade Iraq, one of six House Republicans to oppose the White House on that issue.
“Saddam Hussein is a disturbed, dangerous leader. We should deal with him,” Mr. Houghton told the Los Angeles Times, before adding that he did not see the need for a rush into combat operations. “Why don’t we win the war against terrorism before we start another fight?”
Earlier, Mr. Houghton and three other Republicans voted against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying about the Monica Lewinsky affair. Such independence did not always sit well with GOP leaders. “I think there is pattern of whether Amo is a team player,” Stephen J. Minarik III, then a future New York state party chairman, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in 2002.
Yet Mr. Houghton’s contrarian streak served him well as a retail politician. In his Southern Tier district, he routinely captured more than 70 percent of the vote.
In addition to tweed suits, an upper-crust accent and a Harvard pedigree, he brought to politics a sense of noblesse oblige, his deep roots in the region, and his family’s philanthropy and more-than-century-long affiliation with the Republican Party.
Mr. Houghton received crucial help from his second wife, Priscilla, a moderate Democrat who enthusiastically supported charities and encouraged her husband’s efforts to forge ties between middle-of-the-road Republicans and Democrats in Washington.
In some ways, support for Mr. Houghton’s political career was building well before he was born. Generations of Houghtons served as top executives of Corning Glass Works, and the town, region and family thrived. Mr. Houghton’s father served as ambassador to France, and his grandfather was ambassador to Germany and England.
Corning Glass Works — its name was later changed to Corning Inc. — prospered by supplying specialty glass to industry. Later ventures, including a move into fiber optics, at first did not go as planned, but Corning, unlike many other Rust Belt manufacturers, has endured as an independent and profitable company.
Amory Houghton Jr. was born in Corning on Aug. 7, 1926. He graduated from St. Paul’s, an elite boarding school in Concord, N.H., in 1944. He served in the Marine Corps during World War II, then received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1950 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1952.
He served as chief executive of Corning Glass Works from 1964 to 1983. After retiring from Corning, he considered missionary work in Zimbabwe for the Episcopal Church, to which he was a major contributor.
Instead of church service in Africa, he decided to enter politics after a House seat opened up in his congressional district. According to the Harvard Crimson, Mr. Houghton made up his mind to run after driving his motor home through the Southern Tier and doing a seat-of-the-pants poll of voters.
During his nine terms in the House, he became known for paying close attention to his district’s needs. He fought successfully, for example, to preserve the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Canandaigua, N.Y.
Mr. Houghton’s first marriage, to the former Ruth West, ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Priscilla Blackett Dewey, died in 2012 after 22 years of marriage.
Survivors include four children from his first marriage; a brother; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
After leaving office, Mr. Houghton continued to work through the Republican Main Street Partnership — a group of moderate GOP members of Congress — to nudge the GOP away from what he considered a deviation to the far right.
Mr. Houghton, who was known for his cordial manner, spoke bluntly about changes in Washington in recent years. In July 2018, voicing his opposition to President Trump, Mr. Houghton said 21st-century political trends in the United States had parallels to what his grandfather observed as U.S. ambassador to Germany in the 1920s.
“Enough already,” Mr. Houghton told the Buffalo News. “Every voice, every pen, every opportunity to try to get this guy out of office is a good thing. I’m scared for the country.”
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