Born in Mission, Texas, Bentsen began his political career as a Hidalgo County judge immediately after World War II ended taking a seat in the Cabinet as Treasury secretary during President Bill Clinton's first term.
He was elected to Congress in 1949, but left in 1955, saying he could not raise his family on the $12,500 salary, CNN reported. He then started an insurance company and a consulting business, and became a millionaire.
His campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, only six years after returning to Washington as a senator, foundered, but in 1988 he was named vice presidential running mate of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Bentsen made one of the best-known U.S. political rejoinders during the vice presidential debate in that election. Republican candidate Sen. Dan Quayle said he had as much experience as John Kennedy when the Massachusetts senator sought the presidency. Bentsen immediately shot back: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy!"
Bentsen recorded his oral history for the University of Texas, which cannot be opened until five years after his death, the Chronicle said.