WASHINGTON — James A. Traficant Jr., a flamboyant Democrat who was expelled fromthe House of Representatives after a bribery conviction in 2002, died on Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio, four days after he was injured in a tractor accident on his family’s farm. He was 73.
His death was confirmed by Heidi Hanni, a spokeswoman for the Traficant family.
Mr. Traficant was known for his colorful personality and wardrobe, his legislative theatrics and his wild mop of hair. So it was something of a surprise when the hair turned out to be fake, a fact that was made clear when he had to remove his toupee during booking after his arrest on bribery and racketeering charges.
The charges stemmed from accusations that he solicited bribes from business executives in exchange for government favors. Mr. Traficant served as his own lawyer and was convicted in April 2002.
Three months later, the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct recommended that Mr. Traficant be expelled from Congress. The vote in the full House was 420 to 1 for expulsion.
Mr. Traficant became only the second House member to be ousted for unethical conduct since the Civil War. The first was Michael J. Myers, a Pennsylvania Democrat, who was convicted in 1980 of accepting a bribe in the Abscam scandal.
Mr. Traficant ran for Congress as an independent while in prison in 2002 and lost to a former aide, Tim Ryan. He was released in 2009 after serving seven years of an eight-year sentence. He tried again to revive his congressional career the next year, but won only 16 percent of the vote, losing again to Mr. Ryan.
First elected to the House in 1984, Mr. Traficant was known for his combative nature and hostility to government bureaucracy and regulation. Voters appreciated him because he was aggressive in seeking federal money for projects like bridges, roads and community centers in a district that was at the heart of the hard-hit industrial Midwest.
He peppered his speeches on the House floor with “Star Trek” references and ended hundreds with the order “Beam me up.”
James Anthony Traficant Jr. was born on May 8, 1941, in Youngstown, Ohio, to James A. Traficant, a truck driver, and Agnes T. Traficant. He played football at the University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated with a degree in education in 1963. He worked as a drug counselor for 10 years before he was elected sheriff of Mahoning County in 1980.
He became a local celebrity in 1983 when he was acquitted on a federal corruption charge in another case in which he acted as his own lawyer, even though he had no law degree. Prosecutors had accused him of accepting bribes from organized crime figures while he was the sheriff, but he argued that he was conducting a sting operation.
Survivors include his wife, Patricia, and their two daughters, Robin and Elizabeth.
In Washington, Mr. Traficant was an anti-establishment eccentric in the buttoned-up capital, and the behavior that was derided on Capitol Hill made him a favorite among his mostly blue-collar voters at home. He opposed free-trade agreements, pushed for “Buy American” requirements in spending bills and raged against foreign aid.
“He was always rooting for the underdog, and was willing to spend his time and energy trying to help people that nobody else would listen to,” his successor in Congress, Representative Ryan, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “There wasn’t a guy who had more charisma, or more of an ability to make someone feel special and part of the fun that was going on.”
Mr. Traficant frequently used one-minute addresses on the House floor, a tradition that allows members to discuss any topic. His were pugnacious, sometimes crude, and included rants against the North American Free Trade Agreement and, a favorite, government regulations.
“Mr. Speaker,” he said in one 1998 speech, “the Lord’s Prayer is 66 words, the Gettysburg Address is 286 words, the Declaration of Independence is 1,322 words. U.S. regulations on the sale of cabbage — that is right, cabbage — is 27,000 words. Regulatory red tape in America costs taxpayers $400 billion every year, over $4,000 each year, every year, year in, year out, for every family.”
“Beam me up.”