Paul M. Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and first president of The Heritage Foundation, died this morning around 1 a.m. He was 66 years old. Weyrich was a good friend to many of us at Heritage, a true leader and a man of unbending principle. He won Heritage’s prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Award in 2005.

Heritage President Ed Feulner released a statement praising Weyrich for his dedication and leadership:

Moral courage was a defining trait of Paul himself.  On any policy issue that turned on a core principle, he never failed to take a public stand–regardless of how that stand might affect his professional or personal relationships.  A political animal of the highest order, he always chose principle over any temporary “strategic” abandonment of principle designed to win some transitory political victory.

This moral courage was matched with the physical courage he displayed in the face of physical disability in his later years.

Paul Weyrich was a visionary, a builder, a moral and political leader.  America is a better and stronger country because of his contributions. He will be sorely missed.

Heritage’s Executive Vice President Phil Truluck added:

A friend, a mentor, a patriot, and a strategist par excellence. Paul Weyrich was all of these things and so much more. He changed the face and structure of politics not just here in Washington, but throughout America. That can not be said about many. Was he easy to deal with? Not always. Would he tell you the truth if you liked it or not? Absolutely. Was he steadfast to his principles and his love for this country and his family? Without a doubt. We—the United States, the Conservative Movement, and The Heritage Foundation—have lost a strong voice for freedom. We are what we are today because of Paul Weyrich. And I will miss him.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Weyrich family, including son Steve, who currently works at Heritage.

Throughout the day we’ll be adding reflections on Weyrich’s life. Stay tuned for updates.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who attended Weyrich’s weekly Free Congress meeting more than 350 times:

No matter the challenges Paul was facing in his personal life, he was always acutely aware of the challenges facing our nation and devoted his entire life to strengthening our country. His ability to persuade without berating, and teach without demeaning are lessons that would serve many on both sides of the aisle well.

He wasn’t just an outstanding leader for conservatives; he was a steadfast confidant and a devout man of faith.  I will miss his infectious personality and our weekly meetings.  My prayers are with his wife Joyce, their five children and many grandchildren during this difficult time.

It isn’t often that when a man of Paul’s stature passes that we can say his death was a loss of more than a leader — in Paul we also lose a friend.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH):

Paul was one of the giants of the conservative movement — a man committed to family, faith, and preserving and expanding freedom both here in America and around the world. His passing is a great loss for conservatism, and for our country.  Paul was right from the start, as a volunteer for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.  The Heritage Foundation — which he co-founded and helped organize — provided a roadmap for Ronald Reagan’s presidency and continues to serve as a leading public policy research institute for the conservative movement.  For more than four decades, Paul shaped American politics through his leadership, his writing, his activism, and his passion.  He will be missed.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN):

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and mentor, Paul M. Weyrich.

Paul M. Weyrich was a giant in American politics, an inspiring leader and a friend to generations of conservatives. As the chairman and chief operating officer of the Free Congress Foundation and first president of The Heritage Foundation, Paul M. Weyrich was a founding father of the modern conservative movement. His influence reached from the corridors of power in our nation’s Capital to the townhalls and churches of heartland America and he will be deeply missed.

I also grieve the passing of Paul M. Weyrich with a sense of personal loss. I have benefited immeasurably from his counsel, friendship and Christian example. Like so many who admired him across this nation, I am certain that heaven is richer but my life is poorer because of the passing of Paul M. Weyrich. May God rest his soul and bring comfort to his family and friends during this time of loss.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX):

Paul Weyrich was a leader within the conservative movement and a man of great principle and faith.  He dedicated his life to ensuring that conservatives would not only have the ideas, but the tools necessary to fight for and defend liberty each and every day.  Paul was truly the father of modern grassroots conservative activism.

Though his passing is a great loss, Paul Weyrich’s contributions to our movement will continue to shape the minds and lives of conservatives across the country.  The Heritage Foundation, which he co-founded, is an intellectual home for all conservatives.  And without Paul, the Republican Study Committee, which he worked to create, would not exist today.  His ideas and principles will be carried on by not just the Republican Study Committee and the Heritage foundation, but by conservatives across the country that rely on the institutions which Paul worked to establish.

On behalf of all conservatives in the House of Representatives, I offer our deepest prayers and condolences to the Weyrich family.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA):

Paul was a giant in the conservative movement.  His tireless efforts on behalf of advancing conservative policies have left this nation a better place.  A man of principle and character, he will be greatly missed.  I feel fortunate to have called Paul a friend.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC):

Paul was a founding father of the conservative movement and a man of principle and compassion.  His success in establishing the American Legislative Exchange Council, The Heritage Foundation, and the Free Congress Foundation has been instrumental in the development of the modern conservative movement around the world.  He leaves in his absence a legacy of leadership that will have a lasting impact on generations to come.

I am particularly grateful to have worked with Paul through the Krieble Institute where we traveled to Bulgaria and western Siberia to promote the development of democracy and help those nations recover from communism.  In fact, due to his vision of promoting democracy, Paul was recognized by the KGB as an ‘agent of influence’, which he proudly acknowledged.

At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), incoming chairman of the Republican Study Committee:

America and conservatives lost a giant today. Like all who admired him, I am deeply saddened to learn of Paul Weyrich’s passing.  Paul was a man of great passion who made our nation better by fighting for that in which he truly believed.  His legacy will be one of enthusiasm, ingenuity, and unyielding principle. Only because of the hard work of Paul Weyrich do conservatives have the voice we enjoy today. Though Paul is in a better place today, we will honor his life by continuing to positively and actively defend the ideals for which he lived.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

Elaine and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend, Paul Weyrich.

The world has lost a powerful voice for good and a passionate defender of liberty, and the conservative movement Paul Weyrich helped establish and sustain has lost one of its most ardent supporters.

Paul Weyrich informed a thousand debates, and he leaves a lasting legacy in the institutions he either founded or supported and in the thousands of young people he taught over the years.

First and foremost, Paul Weyrich was a man of faith. And after this final painful struggle of his remarkable life, we can hope that he now finds rest from his many labors.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX):

I was so blessed with the time to learn from Paul Weyrich as we worked together to build the Republican Study Committee and to ensure that conservative thought and action guided the Republican Congress.  Up until my last days in the House, I could count on seeing him each week in my office, lunching around a table of conservative heroes – and, of course, he was always the most revered of the bunch.  Paul was the only man in this town who knew how to revive the Right and he did so through political thought and political organization.  This is a very sad day, indeed, and his passing comes at a time when we need his leadership more than ever.  Conservatives would do well to allow Paul’s life and legacy to not only serve our memory, but to guide our future.

Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Myron Ebell:

I am saddened by Paul Weyrich’s death. For forty years, Paul was one of the conservative movement’s most honorable and effective leaders. Paul put backbone in the conservative movement. He achieved so much on so many of the great political issues of our time; and even when the cause seemed lost, Paul never gave up and never compromised his principles.

Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Paul Weyrich, whose life work was instrumental in the development of conservative thought.  As the first president of the Heritage Foundation and respected leader of other conservative organizations and coalitions, Paul’s service to America has embodied and further advanced the Republican Party’s core values of limited government, lower taxes, and individual responsibility.  We are saddened by the passing of Paul Weyrich, but we know that his contributions will continue to resonate for generations.

Third Branch Conference Chairman Manuel Miranda:

There is no one — no one person –  who has been more significant to the daily life of the Conservative movement than Paul Weyrich.  There has been no one who better understood the full range of issues that affect Americans or which are affected by Washington.

I lose a close friend and ally on the effort to reclaim the Constitution from judicial usurpation.  I might not have succeeded in opposing the Harriet Miers nomination without Paul’s support.  And I would certainly not have continued as a public advocate without his friendship.

This was a truly great man, who overshadowed all the elected leaders who occupied the same time and space that he did.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS):

Paul Weyrich was one of our first heroes of the conservative movement. He has always battled ideas and for some time battled physically, leaving us too early.  His passion and strategy will be truly missed, as well as his friendship. My heartfelt prayers and condolences go to his family and his many, many friends.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS):

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Paul Weyrich. Today America lost a true patriot. Paul was a pioneer in the conservative movement, a great visionary, leader, man of faith, and friend. The legacy he leaves behind will be remembered for generations. Paul will be greatly missed.

Vicki and I send our thoughts and prayers to the Weyrich family during this time of mourning.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI):

Paul’s leadership set the cornerstone for the conservative movement in this country.  Rather than sit on the sidelines, Paul turned his vision into action.  Through his founding of the Heritage Foundation over 35 years ago, he left an indelible mark on public policy.  His passing is a great loss, but the legacy he leaves behind of principled conservatism will continue to influence political discourse for years to come.

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell:

Paul Weyrich was a foundational pillar of the modern conservative movement.  He was a leader, a patriot and a friend, with an unwavering conscience that held fast to traditional values in good times and bad. Even as Republican leaders vacillated on issues like taxes, abortion and government spending, Paul never wavered, and when he admonished those leaders — even presidents among them — he spoke for legions of conservatives across America.  He was a man of principle who not only stood firmly on the ground of conservatism, but who took giant strides to advance and spread these values in the public square and in the hearts of countless Americans. The fruits of Paul’s labor will continue to flourish, and the words of his namesake — St. Paul of Tarsus — were never more true: Paul Weyrich fought the good fight, he finished the course, and he always kept the faith.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA):

It is impossible to overstate Paul’s impact on our nation. His efforts inspired countless numbers of Americans to engage in the battle of ideas on behalf of conservative principles. To those of us lucky enough to know Paul personally, his faith and relentless optimism were a constant inspiration.

Our nation lost a great leader today.  I lost a friend.  Generations of conservatives owe him a debt of gratitude for his diligence, wisdom, and willingness to stand up for what is right—no matter how much opposition he faced.  Paul was a humble man from Racine, Wisconsin who went on to shape the future course of our nation’s policies.

My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to his family.  A tireless Conservative, his work and his presence will be missed.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT):

Paul Weyrich was a visionary leader in defending conservative principles and a pioneer in organizing and empowering citizens to become more involved in the political process.  He founded think tanks, launched a television network, organized coalitions, trained grassroots activists around the world, and influenced both politics and policy.

I knew Paul for more than three decades.  Paul could engage as well as enrage, energize as well as criticize.  He could be a strong ally as well as a worthy adversary.  Paul loved God, his family, and America, and he did everything he could to make this a better, stronger country. The conservative community will be bereft of a champion, and I personally will miss him very much.

Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell:

Paul Weyrich was the premier institution builder of the conservative movement. He held us all to his high standards. His achievements will benefit America and the world for generations.