NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A longtime North Little Rock mayor and former member of the Arkansas House of Representatives has died.

Friends say Patrick Henry Hays passed away Wednesday at the age of 76. City officials would later confirm the death, saying he had been fighting cancer.

Born in North Little Rock in 1947, Hays was a graduate of NLR High School and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he also earned a law degree.

After first serving as an assistant city attorney in North Little Rock and one term in the Arkansas House, Hays won his first term as North Little Rock mayor in 1988, leading the city from 1989 until 2013.

During his 24-year tenure, North Little Rock saw tremendous growth, including the constructions of Dickey-Stephens Park and the now Simmons Bank Arena, as well as developments in the city like Burns Park, the Big Dam Bridge, Clinton Park Bridge and replacing the Broadway Bridge.

In 2014, Hays lost out to Republican French Hill in the race to represent the 2nd District of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives. After his terms in public office, Hays went into the private sector where he continued to practice law.

A much-beloved figure in North Little Rock, the city would honor Hays with the opening of the Patrick H. Hays Senior Citizens Center on Pershing Boulevard in 2003.

“I knew Mayor Hays nearly my entire life. I have known him as a close friend and as an opponent. He was a fighter until the end,” current North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick said. “I cared deeply about him and I know he will be sorely missed by all of us in North Little Rock.”

Former Arkansas governor and president Bill Clinton shared a statement after Hays’ passing.

“Pat Hays was a great mayor who brought fresh ideas and renewed investment to North Little Rock. I will always be grateful for the chance we had to work together when I was governor, for the early support he gave me as an Arkansas Traveler, and for his decades of friendship,” Clinton said. “He was a wonderful man whose 23 years of public service made North Little Rock and all Central Arkansas better. Hillary and I send our love and prayers to Linda and their entire family.”

Hays is survived by his wife Linda, their daughter and grandchildren.