Gilbert Gude, a liberal Republican who championed environmental causes during five terms in the House of Representatives, died Thursday of heart failure at Sibley Hospital in Washington. The longtime Bethesda resident was 84.
Mr. Gude, who represented Montgomery County and, at times, parts of Howard County from 1967 to 1977, was the chief House sponsor of the bill preserving the C&O; Canal from Georgetown to Cumberland, making it the narrowest -- and one of the most-used -- national parks. He also pushed for an amendment to the federal Clean Air Act that led to the annual publication of auto emission test results.
"He was conscientious and concerned with the environment at an early time," said former Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, a Maryland Democrat. "He was really apolitical and a model legislator."
"He loved to hike and canoe. He did all of those things," said a daughter, Adrienne G. Lewis of Washington.
Mr. Gude also backed the Washington Metro subway system's creation, noise abatement around the District of Columbia's airports and the restoration of Glen Echo amusement park.
"He was a warm, kind and gentle man," said Michael D. Barnes, a Democrat who later took over Mr. Gude's seat. "He was thoughtful and soft-spoken, but his views were strong. He was progressive for his party and could work with anyone."
Born in Washington and raised in Rockville, Mr. Gude was a sergeant in the Army Medical Department during World War II and earned a bachelor's degree in horticulture from Cornell University and a master's degree from George Washington University.
"The Gudes were an immigrant success story in the Washington area," according to a biographical sketch prepared by Bill Grigg, a former press aide to Mr. Gude. "Arriving from Germany, Gilbert Gude's grandfather sold flowers on Capitol Hill and soon was raising them in fields in Anacostia. When more space was needed, Gude's father bought property adjacent to Rockville."
Mr. Gude was treasurer of E. Gude & Son, his family's Rockville nursery and florist business, for many years.
Before his election to Congress, Mr. Gude represented Montgomery County as a delegate to the Republican State Convention in 1952. Appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1953 for two years, he was elected to four more terms.
He was elected to the Maryland Senate in 1962 and served until 1967. He also was chairman of Charles McC. Mathias' successful 1964 House of Representatives campaign.
In August 1975, he demonstrated the need for cooperation to protect the region's resources by leading a three-week trip by foot, horseback and boat from the Potomac's source at the border of West Virginia and Maryland to Point Lookout, where it meets the Chesapeake Bay.
He was friends with many Democrats in Congress, car-pooling with congressional neighbors of both parties from their Montgomery County homes to Capitol Hill.
Once thought to be unbeatable, he surprised many in 1976, including his wife, by announcing he was retiring, his press aide said.
He was offered the post of director of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. When he retired from the library in 1986, he went to Montgomery College to learn to use a computer "free, as a senior citizen," he noted.
The instruction enabled him to write on the Potomac River. He had two books published, Where the Potomac Begins: A History of the North Branch Valley and Small-Town Destiny: The Story of 5 Small Towns Along the Potomac Valley.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon Tuesday at Little Flower Roman Catholic Church in Bethesda, where he was a member.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, the former Jane Callaghan; three sons, Gilbert Gude Jr. of Bethesda, and Gregory A. Gude and Daniel C. Gude, both of Cabin John; another daughter, Sharon L. Gude of Rockville; and three grandchildren.