Image: Anne Armstrong
AP file
In 1972, Anne Armstrong made a keynote speech at a GOP convention in Miami, the first woman ever to do so. Armstrong, a longtime powerful Republican, died Wednesday.
updated 7/30/2008 2:52:32 PM ET 2008-07-30T18:52:32

Anne Armstrong, a longtime powerful Republican who served as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain in the Ford administration, died Wednesday, her office said. She was 80.

Armstrong had battled cancer and had been in a Houston-area hospice for about a week before her death, her assistant Kay Hicks said.

She and her husband, Tobin, were Republican stalwarts. She was a national leader of the Republican Party and Cabinet-level adviser to Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Armstrong's name was again in the news in 2006 when Vice President Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a fellow hunter during an outing at the Armstrong family's ranch in South Texas.

She was the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, taking the post in 1976.

At her swearing-in, President Ford quipped that his wife was "always needling me" to appoint women to such posts. Armstrong replied that "I have the feeling Abigail Adams would have been just as excited as Betty Ford and I" about her selection.

A couple of months into her tenure, The New York Times reported that the British had "taken an instant liking to her ... because she is visible and direct and informal without turning informality into a cloying down-home soupiness."

High standards, service
More recently, Armstrong was an adviser on foreign intelligence to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

"Her public service was exemplary and set a high standard for all who recognized that government service is vitally important to our way of life," former President Bush said in a statement. "Anne was a great sportsman, fantastic shot, and a wonderful friend to the Bush family. We send condolences to her family and mourn her death."

Tobin Armstrong died in 2005. They had been married for 55 years.

The man wounded by Cheney on Armstrong's ranch in February 2006 was Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney and longtime Republican activist. He was hit in the face, neck and chest with birdshot and was hospitalized for several days.

The Kenedy County ranch had been in the Armstrong family since the 19th century. Tobin Armstrong's grandfather, John Armstrong III, who settled it, had earned his fame as the Texas Ranger who captured notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin.

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