By Justin Webb
BBC News, Washington
Senior Republican congressman Tom DeLay has decided to step down from politics, making him the highest-profile casualty so far in a corruption scandal which has been dogging President George W Bush's Republican party for months.
Mr DeLay said he will continue working for the Republican cause
This is a fall from grace of truly Shakespearean proportions.
Mr DeLay began life in pest control, but was elected to Congress in 1984.
In Washington, he soon gained a reputation for extraordinary ruthlessness.
His nickname was the Hammer, a none-too-subtle reference to his ability to smash the skulls of his opponents, at least metaphorically speaking.
His talent was fundraising.
He used his Christian conservative credentials to make millions of dollars for his colleagues.
They, in turn, became in essence, his clients and elected him their leader in 2002.
But he sailed too close to the wind.
Suggestions that he had used underhand methods to fund Republican candidates turned into suggestions that he had used illegal methods.
He was charged with election offences - charges he dismissed as ridiculous. But his party pushed him out of his leadership job and the voters were preparing to do the same in his Texas district this November.
So he jumped, though not before taking one last swing at his enemies:
"There, of course, will be great speculation among the political pundits and media about my reasons, both for this decision and its timing.
"I am quite certain most will put forward their opinions and conclusions devoid of and unencumbered by accuracy, facts and the truth."
When he resigned, President Bush publicly praised his service to his Texas constituents.
And he told reporters Mr DeLay's resignation would not hurt the Republican party.
On balance, he is probably right.
The Democrats will be hoping the mud from the DeLay scandal will splatter across his party colleagues.
But elections for Congress are still more than seven months away, giving the Republicans plenty of time to distance themselves from their fallen leader.
Mr DeLay says he will continue to serve his party, but nobody will return his calls. His end has been as sure and as sudden as those of the pests he once controlled.