Luke Letlow, a congressman-elect from Louisiana, died of COVID-19 on Tuesday at a hospital in Shreveport, according to state officials.

Letlow, 41, won a runoff earlier this month to represent the state’s 5th Congressional District, succeeding his former boss, Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., who didn’t run again after three terms in Congress.

Letlow is the highest ranking U.S. politician to die of COVID-19, which has now killed more than 337,000 Americans.

Letlow announced that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Dec. 18, the Monroe News-Star reported, and initially quarantined at his home in Richland Parish in northeastern Louisiana. By the next day, he was admitted to the hospital with worsening symptoms and later transferred to Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport.

He’s survived by two young children and his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, the News-Star reported.

State and national political leaders mourned his death on Tuesday night.


“COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, in a statement shared on Twitter. “I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. Representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”

Before joining Abraham as his chief of staff, Letlow worked for former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, who praised his “passion for service.”

“I first met Luke when he was still a college student, and spent countless hours with him in his truck driving the back roads of Louisiana,” Jindal said. “His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life.”