Paul Weyrich, 66, the conservative thinker who coined the phrase "moral majority," founded the Heritage Foundation and became an intellectual leader of the U.S. religious right, died Thursday (Dec. 18, 2008), a foundation official said.
He died at a Northern Virginia hospital, the official said, but it was not immediately known what the cause was. Mr. Weyrich has been in declining health since he injured his spine in a fall in 1996, and he also suffered from diabetes. Both of his legs were amputated at the knee in 2005.
"Paul was one of the giants of the conservative movement, a man committed to family, faith, and preserving and expanding freedom both here in America and around the world," House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement.
More than any person, excluding President Ronald Reagan, whom he attacked as insufficiently conservative, Mr. Weyrich stitched social-issue conservatives into the fabric of the Republican Party.
He brokered the marriage of religious and secular conservatives, and founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973 as a counterbalance to the liberal Brookings Institution.
His work launched the influential network of conservative think tanks and talk radio shows that contributed to the culture wars of the past three decades in U.S. politics.