In Washington, he was a Reagan loyalist, a defender of military might and an advocate for a return to traditional family values and conservative stands on moral issues. But critics said his rigid stands left him no room for political compromise and lessened his influence, limiting his ability to help Alabama.
Denton lost his re-election bid in 1986 by only a fraction of a percentage point. After his defeat, Denton founded the Coalition for Decency and lectured about family causes. Denton also launched a humanitarian outreach to needy countries through his National Forum Foundation, which arranged shipments of donated goods.
In later years, Denton lived in Williamsburg, Va., but he still appeared at patriotic gatherings. In November 2008, an emotional Denton watched at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Ala., as a newly restored A-6 Intruder fighter/bomber — like the one he flew over North Vietnam — was rolled out.
The aircraft had been acquired from the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola for display in the Alabama park in Denton's honor.
Denton's grandson, Edward, said that on one hand, Denton was a normal grandfather who enjoyed taking his grandchildren fishing aboard his boat in Mobile. "On the other hand," he said, "he was a war hero and someone who set an example for being what being a good, patriotic American is all about."