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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Former Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, a champion of the military who served 17 terms in the U.S. House before losing a re-election bid in 2010, has died. He was 81.

Skelton died Monday at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., surrounded by family and friends, including longtime colleague Russell Orban.

The cause was not immediately released, but Orban says Skelton entered the hospital a week earlier with a cough.

Oban confirmed Skelton's death to The Associated Press.

The Lexington, Mo., native was a Democrat and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Skelton lost to Republican Vicky Hartzler in 2010 in western Missouri's 4th Congressional District.

He then joined the law firm of Kansas City-based Husch Blackwell, working in its offices in Kansas City and Washington.