WASHINGTON -- Former US Representative James Scheuer, who served parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County during a decades-long political career,
died Monday of coronary disease and kidney failure. He was 85.
Mr. Scheuer was elected to Congress in 1964 and served until 1992, except for a two-year term in the mid-1970s when he lost an election.
Born in New York, he became the city's harmonica champion at the age of 13.
He met his future wife when she was 17. ''He was very handsome and charming," Emily Scheuer said yesterday. ''When you're 17, does anything else matter? I was very impressed, and then he went into the service and I didn't see him again for four years."
Mr. Scheuer served as a flight instructor during World War II.
Longtime friend Justin Feldman, a former aide to Robert Kennedy, said he knew Mr. Scheuer as part of a group of young law students and lawyers who had big dreams about changing politics when they returned home from the war.
''We were all young, and we were going to take over the world," Feldman said. ''The young idealists came back from the war intending to change the nature of politics, which in New York was run by a corrupt political machine."
He said Mr. Scheuer was energetic and was ''never part of the party organization, which is why they were constantly trying to redistrict him out."
In 26 years in Congress, Mr. Scheuer had his district lines redrawn several times. During his tenure, he trumpeted such causes as the Head Start early development program, auto safety, and family planning.
After retiring, he was appointed by President Clinton as the US director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London, where he worked until 1995, when he and his wife moved back to Washington.
Besides his wife, Mr. Scheuer leaves four children and 10 grandchildren.