Eccentric Ohio Congressman James Traficant died Saturday, capping a political career filled with drama, jail time and a particularly notable toupee. He was 73.
Trafficant died from injuries sustained while attempting to park a vintage tractor on his family farm in Youngstown, the Associated Press reported.
Traficant, who often referred to himself as the “son of a truck driver” to match his populist image, is best known for being the second person to be expelled from Congress after the Civil War. He spent seven years in jail for bribery.
In 2002 he was convicted by a federal jury for coercing staffers to work on his farm and houseboat, and used his office to extract bribes from businesses. When released in 2009, he would say only he would need “a weed whacker” to trim his iconic toupee.
As sheriff of Mahoning County, he spent three nights in jail for refusing to foreclose on the homes of laid off steelworkers. In 1983 he managed to beat federal bribery charges, defending himself in court despite not having a law degree. The next year he ran for Congress and won the first of his nine terms.
In a 2009 column for American Free Press, he wrote he planned to testify in Germany on behalf of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-American who was later found guilty of war crimes and being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews at a concentration camp during World War II.
After losing a 2010 bid for the congressional seat he held before prison, Traficant pursued other interests. In July he founded Project Freedom USA to pressure Congress to “stop the madness” by eliminating all income and payroll taxes and repealing the 16th Amendment, among other things.