Former Texas congressman and Attorney General Jim Mattox, a powerhouse in Democratic politics through the 1980s, has died, state Democratic Party officials said Thursday. He was 65.
The Associated Press reported that Mattox died at his Dripping Springs home. His sister, Janice, said her brother died in his sleep but had not been ill "any more than common" and didn't know whether he had heart problems.
They talked on the phone almost every day and talked about "business, kids, the holidays, the dog, politics."
"I think they [Texans] lost an advocate for their interests in the state of Texas," she said.
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In a statement, U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco) said: "Jim Mattox was a tireless fighter for average working families in Texas. His was a voice that will be missed but not forgotten."
Mattox, a longtime Democrat, worked his way up the party ladder. He got involved in hometown Dallas precinct politics, won a seat in the Texas House and then served three terms in the U.S. House.
A former Dallas County prosecutor, Mattox served as attorney general from 1983 to 1990 and developed a reputation as a feisty partisan in his many conflicts with then-Gov. Bill Clements, a Republican.
However, Mattox's harsh treatment of Ann Richards in their 1990 primary campaign for governor damaged his reputation among some Democrats.
That acrimony later cost Mattox the support of many Democratic regulars as he considered making a run for his old seat.
In 1993, when Sen. Lloyd Bentsen resigned with two years remaining in his term, Richards appointed Bob Krueger until a special election could be held, a move viewed as a snub of Mattox. Mattox chose not to challenge Krueger or Kay Bailey Hutchison in the special election, which Hutchison won in a landslide.
Instead, Mattox waited until the 1994 race to fill a full six-year term. He lost to Dallas investor Richard Fisher in the primary and had remained in private practice since.
He is survived by his wife, Marta and their two children, Jim and Cissy.