Former Rep. James L. Oberstar, a fixture on Capitol Hill for decades, has died, according to local media reports and members of the Minnesota delegation. He was 79.
WDIO-TV reported that Oberstar died in his sleep sometime Friday night.
A Democrat from Minnesota, he rose to serve as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, having previously been a House staffer and the staff administrator for the predecessor Committee on Public Works prior to winning election to his seat in 1974.
Oberstar was defeated for re-election by Republican Chip Cravaack during the 2010 tea party wave.
During his time wielding the Transportation gavel, Oberstar would regale the attendees at hearings and markups with stories from his years involved in transportation policy on Capitol Hill, often referring to years working for his predecessor and boss, Rep. John Blatnik, D-Minn.
He would often take a similar approach when meeting with reporters, particularly when the panel was dealing with complex legislation like a reauthorization of the highway bill.
Current members of the Minnesota delegation took to Twitter Saturday morning to relay the news and offer condolences:
Every miner should remember Oberstar for work on mine safety, every biker & hiker for his trails, every citizen for his passion for country — Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) May 3, 2014
Jim Oberstar was a truly wonderful man who was filled with joy and compassion. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. — Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) May 3, 2014
Thoughts and prayers are with the family of Rep. Jim Oberstar. It was a pleasure serving with him in Congress. — Rep. Erik Paulsen (@RepErikPaulsen) May 3, 2014