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Georgia state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, left, congratulates Rep. Tom Buck, D-Columbus, as the House passes the budget during the last day of the session Friday, April 25, 2003, at the Capitol in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

ATLANTA (AP) — A longtime Democratic lawmaker who represented Columbus in the Georgia state House for nearly four decades has died.

Former state Rep. Tom Buck, 81, died early Thursday in hospice care, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

Buck was first elected to the state House in 1966 and served 19 two-year terms.

Buck served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the state House's chief tax writing committee, and played a part in funding large projects that contributed to the growth of Columbus.

"If it was good for Columbus, he was in the middle of it," state Rep. Debbie Buckner, a Democrat from Junction City, told the newspaper.

Buck also served on the House's Higher Education Committee when the HOPE scholarship was created.

"State Representative Tom Buck was a good friend, great legislator, and strong leader for the State of Georgia," Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said on Twitter. "He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on through the work he has done."

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