Former Arkansas governor and US senator David Pryor dead at 89

Former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator David Pryor, a Democrat, died on Saturday at the age of 89 of natural causes in Little Rock, Ark.

Pryor was regarded as one of the most prominent voices of the Democratic Party in the state. Prior to leading the state as a governor, Pryor kickstarted his career in politics in 1960 with his election to the Arkansas House of Representatives. He served in the state legislature until 1966 when he was elected to Congress after winning a special election.

He held various offices for over three decades throughout his career in public service.

Pryor served in the House of Representatives until 1973. After leaving the lower chamber, Pryor became the governor of Arkansas in 1975, winning two terms as the state leader. He was elected to the Senate in 1979, winning three terms in the upper chamber. He decided not to run for reelection in 1996 and announced his retirement in early 1997.

Pryor made his mark on Capitol Hill for his work on behalf of senior citizens, often investigating nursing homes while serving as a member of Congress.  He helped create the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. As a chief sponsor, the legislation was designated to expand taxpayers’ rights when involved in a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Former President Bill Clinton praised Pryor as one of the state’s “greatest servant leaders” and one of the “finest” he had ever known.

Clinton said that Pryor, throughout his various posts, “fought for progressive policies that helped us put the divided past behind us and move into a brighter future together.”

“David made politics personal — from his famed retail campaigning to his ability to calmly and confidently explain tough votes to his constituents,” Clinton said in a Saturday statement. “He was honest, compassionate, and full of common sense. He really loved the people he represented, and they loved him back.”

Republican officeholders, including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), also mourned Pryor’s death.

“Bryan and I are mourning the death of a dedicated Congressman, Governor, and Senator, David Pryor,” she said in a post on social media platform X. “His career defied easy definition: a man with deep roots in Ouachita County who reached the heights of influence in Washington; a Solid South Democrat who stood strong against the Faubus machine; the architect of an Arkansas political dynasty who was just as comfortable in a Camden lumber yard as the Cambridge quad.”

She said Pryor’s “charisma and moderate politics” made him “a force at the ballot box for decades.”

“While the Senator and I came up in different political parties, I, like all Arkansans deeply appreciated his diligent stewardship of Arkansas and our interests during his time in public life,” she said in the post. “And we can all thank him for his role in burying the divisive racial politics that infected Arkansas government before his tenure.”

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said that Pryor was a “true gentleman and a statesman” who dedicated his life in public office to serve the country.

“His example served and will continue to serve as inspiration for our fellow Arkansans,” Cotton said in a statement. “I extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and loved ones for whom I pray his memory will always be a cherished blessing.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.