Minnesota’s longest-serving member of Congress, former U.S. representative Jim Oberstar, has died. He was 79.
A statement released by his family says Oberstar died Saturday morning in his sleep. No cause of death was provided.
"Congressman Jim Oberstar stands as one of the finest legislators the House has ever known — a man of vision, intellect, and energy with a record of service and accomplishment that spans five decades," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement Saturday.
"Our nation has lost an extraordinary public servant and a man of integrity, committed to civility and bipartisanship and he will be greatly missed," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement.
Oberstar, a Democrat, served northeastern Minnesota for 36 years and became chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in 2006.
Oberstar “knew everything there was to know about our nation’s infrastructure, and fought tirelessly to rebuild and renew it,” Pelosi said.
He was elected to Congress in 1974 and served 18 terms before he narrowly lost to GOP challenger Chip Cravaack in 2010.
Oberstar is survived by his wife, Jean, four children and eight grandchildren.
"Jim was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend and brother," the family’s statement said. "While we mourn the loss of a good man, we also celebrate his life and his service. We ask for your thoughts and prayers, and understanding, at this very difficult time."
Former congressman Dave Obey, D-Wis., was a close friend of Oberstar’s.
"He was a great Congressman and a wonderful human being," Obey said in a statement. "He had guts and his top priority was always, in every way, the economic wellbeing of working families everywhere."