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Former Pa. Gov. and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in critical condition in Texas hospital

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Homeland Security secretary, was in critical condition Thursday in a hospital in Austin, Tex. after undergoing an emergency heart procedure.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge speaks to a crowd of hundreds protesting in front of the White House in 2011. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge speaks to a crowd of hundreds protesting in front of the White House in 2011. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)Read moreJose Luis Magana

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge was in critical condition at a Texas hospital Thursday after an emergency heart procedure.

Ridge, 72, had been attending the Republican Governors Association conference at the JW Marriott in Austin when he called hotel staff about 7 a.m. for medical assistance, according to his spokesman Steve Aaron.

The former governor and U.S. Homeland Security secretary was then transported to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, where he underwent cardiac catheterization, a procedure designed to help diagnose heart problems.

At the time of his arrival at the hospital, Ridge had been responsive to doctors, his spokesman said.

The news of his hospitalization quickly spread through political circles, from Harrisburg to Washington.

Friends and former colleagues took to social media to send well wishes. "Prayers going to former Gov Ridge for a quick, full recovery," tweeted Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) tweeted.

"From our time together in #PaGovt I know him to be a fighter who doesn't back down from any challenge," House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) wrote in a tweet.

A native of Munhall, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, Ridge's family moved to Erie when he was 3. It was there that the Harvard University graduate and Vietnam War veteran's political profile grew. After representing the area for six terms in the U.S. House, Ridge, a moderate Republican, was elected Pennsylvania's governor in 1994.

Near the end of his second term, Ridge's name surfaced as a possible running mate for George W. Bush, then the presumptive favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination. Ultimately, Bush tapped the governor to instead be the first secretary of the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, created in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

After leaving the Bush administration, Ridge served on corporate boards and wrote a book about his experience at the head of the Homeland Security department.

In recent years, Ridge has headed Ridge Global, a firm that advises on cyber security, international security and risk management.

One of Ridge's successors, Gov. Wolf, released a statement Thursday afternoon saying he and his wife were praying for Ridge and his family.

"We know Tom is a fighter and the Ridges should know that all of Pennsylvania is pulling for them as he recovers," Wolf said.

Staff writer Aubrey Whelan and Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contributed to this story.