Jim Oberstar, Longtime Minnesota Congressman, Dies at 79

Former Rep. Jim Oberstar, Minnesota's longest-serving congressman, has died at age 79, family members said Saturday.

Oberstar passed away in his sleep, they said, but did not release his cause of death.

"Jim was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend and brother," family spokesman Blake Chafee said in a statement to NBC News. "While we mourn the loss of a good man, we also celebrate his life and his service."

Oberstar was part of the wave of Democrats to be elected to Congress following the Watergate scandal. He represented Minnesota's northeastern district in the House from 1975 to 2011, and also served as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in 2006.

He lost a close re-election race in 2010 to his Republican challenger, ending his career in Washington after 18 terms.

He leaves behind his wife Jean, four children and eight grandchildren.

— Mel Bailey