March 7 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, the oldest person to serve in the U.S. House, died Thursday at his home in Texas, a spokesman said. He was 95.
Hall, one of the last conservative Texas Democrats to switch to the Republican Party, died of natural causes, the spokesman told The Dallas Morning News.
"Today the 4th District of Texas lost a great leader, statesman and friend. From his defense of our nation during [World War II] through his time as our Representative in Congress, Ralph Hall lived a remarkable life dedicated selflessly to serving his fellow citizens," Hall's successor, Rep. John Ratcliffe wrote on Twitter.
Hall was born May 3, 1923, in the small Texas town of Fate, near the city of Rockwall, where he spent most of his life. The district he represented is about 20 minutes east of Dallas.
He served in the Navy as a lieutenant and aircraft carrier pilot during World War II and went on to attend the University of Texas and Texas Christian University before earning his bachelor's in law from Southern Methodist University and entering politics.
At the start of his political career, Hall was a Democrat, serving as a county judge from 1950-62, before reaching the Texas Senate in 1962, where he served for 10 years.
Hall was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1980, where he often voted with Republicans, despite being a member of the Democratic caucus.
In 2003, he shifted to the Republican Party amid a redraw of the state congressional map and was named to a senior position on the U.S. House energy and commerce committee.
"When I got up here, I was a Democrat. But I was a conservative Democrat," he said of his beginnings in Congress. "I didn't really fit. Republicans didn't really want me and the Democrats didn't like me."
As a Republican, Hall easily won re-election until 2014 when he was defeated by Ratcliffe.
He left office at the age of 91.
Hall married Mary Ellen Murphy Hall in 1944 and they had three children.
He was remembered by both state and U.S. members of Congress Thursday, as well as President George W. Bush whose family he grew close to during his time in politics.
"Ralph Hall epitomized decency, class and patriotism," Bush said Thursday. "He faithfully represented Texans there for some 35 years, and our state and our country are better for it. Laura and I will miss Ralph and remember his example."