I shared part of an Ohio county with Jim Traficant when we were both in Congress. The night that Jim, who died Sept. 27 at 73, was called to the House floor for his expulsion vote, I sat next to him as he underwent one of the most painful processes anyone in politics can. He was expelled after a bribery conviction and later served time in prison.
But I knew the Jim Traficant who stood up for farmers as their property was being foreclosed, for steelworkers trying to save their jobs from imported steel and for the average John Six-Pack trying to make a living. When one of my constituents who was a Traficant fan went to his office, Jim smiled, put him in a headlock and said, “Welcome, glad to see you.” People loved his entertaining “one-minute” floor speeches.
Some remember Jim for how his career ended, but those of us who knew him remember his passion, humor, wit and concern for the average person. Many in his district fondly recalled the good things he did as he left the House for the last time with his famous closing line: “Beam me up, Mr. Speaker.”
Ney is a former Republican Congressman from Ohio
This appears in the October 13, 2014 issue of TIME.