Hyde announced Monday, his 81st birthday, that he will retire when his term ends after the 2006 election. Hyde, who has served in Congress for three decades, said physical limitations from back surgery two years ago have made it "increasingly difficult to run around in the places you have to be a successful congressman."
"Father Time and Mother Nature both stalk every one of us, and they finally caught up with me," Hyde said in Tuesday's (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald.
He did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment, but told the Chicago Tribune that leaving Congress will be "the saddest day of my life."
Hyde was first elected to the House in 1974 from his northwest suburban Chicago district. He is chairman of the House International Relations Committee and chaired the House Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2001.
Hyde "has been a standard-bearer for conservative principles, causes and beliefs. His leadership will be sorely missed on those fronts," said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.
Despite his conservative reputation, Hyde was not always a Republican. He grew up in Chicago as an Irish-Catholic Democrat but by 1952 had switched parties and backed Dwight Eisenhower for president. In Congress, he occasionally crossed party lines to support measures such as gun control and medical leave for workers.