Jim Moody in 1991. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call/AP)

Jim Moody, a onetime college professor from Wisconsin who served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and sponsored a bill in 1991 to establish single-payer universal health-care coverage, died March 22 at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. He was 83.

The cause was a non-traumatic intracranial hemorrhage, said his wife, Janice Boettcher Moody.

Early in his career, Dr. Moody lived overseas while working for an international humanitarian organization and the Peace Corps. He later became a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

He served in both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature before he was elected to Congress in 1982 as a Democrat. During his campaign, he walked door-to-door in his Milwaukee district. Estimates of the number of houses he visited ranged from 13,000 to 40,000.

In Congress, Dr. Moody served on the Ways and Means Committee and had a reliably liberal voting record, except on the issue of federal debt. He was a longtime supporter of a constitutional amendment to require Congress to balance the budget.

He was also among a handful of congressmen who opposed the Persian Gulf War during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, maintaining that the country could go to war only after a declaration by Congress.

“This is about constitutional process,” he said in 1990, shortly before U.S. troops entered battle in the Persian Gulf. “Clearly offensive actions should not take place in the absence of either debate in Congress or a formal declaration of war.”

Dr. Moody was liberal on many social issues and, as early as the 1980s, voiced support for gay rights and the legalization of marijuana. He was also an advocate of universal health insurance for Americans, an idea that had been proposed since the early 20th century.

In a 1991 bill co-sponsored by Reps. Marty Russo (D-Ill.), Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Thomas Downey (D-N.Y.), Dr. Moody called for a federally funded single-payer form of universal health insurance, similar to a plan in use in Canada since the 1960s. He noted that 37 million Americans at the time lacked insurance, including 550,000 in Wisconsin.

Dr. Moody said the proposal would be financed by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy and would, in the long run, save billions of dollars a year in administrative costs. The bill died in committee.

In 1992, Dr. Moody mounted a campaign for the Senate, only to lose in the Democratic primary to Russ Feingold, who ultimately won the general election. Dr. Moody then retired from politics.

James Powers Moody Jr. was born Sept. 2, 1935, in Richlands, Va. His father was an official with the American Red Cross, and his mother worked in relief efforts for refugees.

Dr. Moody spent much of his childhood abroad, attending school in Shanghai before graduating from an English-language high school in Athens.

He received a bachelor’s degree in 1957 from Haverford College in Pennsylvania and then worked in Yugoslavia and Iran for Care, an international humanitarian organization. He joined the Peace Corps soon after it was formed in the early 1960s and helped set up programs in Pakistan and Bangladesh. He spoke several languages, including Greek, Farsi, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish and French.

He later became a Peace Corps official in Washington and then worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He received a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University in 1967 and a doctorate in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1973. He was teaching at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee campus when he entered electoral politics, winning a seat in the state Assembly in 1976.

Dr. Moody’s mother was his campaign manager during his successful run for Congress in 1982.

His first marriage, to Eleanor Briggs, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Janice Boettcher Moody of Rockville, Md.; two children from his second marriage, Sarah Moody of Rockville and Brad Moody of Harrisburg, Pa.; a brother; and a sister.

After his 10 years in the House of Representatives, Dr. Moody taught at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Maryland. In 1995, he became the chief financial officer of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, an agency of the United Nations. He later was president of InterAction, a Washington-based group of nonprofit organizations. In more recent years, Dr. Moody worked as a financial adviser at several investment and financial management firms.

During the 1980s, Dr. Moody helped found what is now the National Security Archive, which seeks to reduce government secrecy by declassifying federal documents.