John J. Rhodes Jr., 86, a former House minority leader and key congressional player who urged President Richard M. Nixon to resign during the turbulent days of Watergate, died of cancer Sunday in Mesa, Ariz.
Mr. Rhodes, who served 30 years as an Arizona congressman and retired in 1982, joined Sens. Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott in visiting Nixon on Aug. 7, 1974, to tell him that impeachment was inevitable if he did not resign. On Aug. 9, Nixon resigned.
Mr. Rhodes ended months of neutrality on the president's future by saying he would vote for impeachment because no one - not even the president - should be above the law.
Voter backlash over Watergate cost the GOP 48 House seats in 1974, and ended any hope Mr. Rhodes had of becoming speaker of a Republican-dominated chamber.
When elected in 1952 to his first term in the House, Mr. Rhodes became the first Republican sent to Washington since Arizona became a state in 1912. He served nine years as minority leader, was chairman of the 1976 and 1980 GOP national conventions and was chairman of the convention's platform committee in 1972.
He became minority leader in 1973 when Gerald Ford ascended to vice president. Mr. Ford replaced Spiro Agnew, who resigned and pleaded no contest to tax evasion charges.