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Joel Pritchard, a former congressman and lieutenant governor who also invented the lawn game Pickleball, has died of lymphoma. He was 72.

Pritchard, who died Thursday, was a moderate-to-liberal Republican whose political career spanned 32 years in the Washington Legislature, U.S. House and lieutenant governor's office. He loved tweaking his party and frequently crossed the aisle to work with Democrats.

In 1970, he sponsored the nation's first voter-approved abortion-rights laws. He also espoused gun-control, environmental protection, adoption of a state income tax, education reform and other issues more often identified with Democrats.

In the early 1960s, Pritchard, former Gov. Dan Evans and other friends were challenged by their children to invent a game to help dispel the boredom at the family compound on Bainbridge Island.

They came up with the game they named after the family dog -- Pickleball. The sport is played with an oversized racket on a court that looks like a badminton court with a low net. The ball is tennis ball size, similar to a whiffle ball. The game has been described as "pingpong on time delay."

Pritchard claimed the game spread to 32 states and some foreign countries. Across Washington state, he leaves a lasting legacy -- 10,000 Pickleball courts.

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