Tennessee State Rep. Bill Beck (D), a well-liked member of the General Assembly who garnered respect from both sides of the aisle, passed away "unexpectedly" on Sunday, according to local NBC affiliate WSMV.
Beck, who represented part of the Nashville Metro area and the surrounding region since 2014, is believed to have perished from a heart attack at age 61 and left behind his wife, Pamela, and their daughter, Meredith.
According to The Tennessean, State Rep. Beck was a Central Tennessee native who graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, served his state and country in the Tennessee Air National Guard, and then obtained a degree from the Nashville School of Law before launching his own private law firm alongside his mother, Martha, who only recently retired from being a practicing attorney.
First elected in 2014 to represent portions of the Nashville region in House District 51, Beck was a Democrat who focused his attention on legislation dealing with the expansion of Medicaid, improving public education and transportation, and increasing the minimum wage, among other things.
His death from a heart attack at age 61 was confirmed by the House Democratic Caucus, and its chairman, State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D), said in a statement, "Our caucus is a family. Today we lost a brother, and we are devastated."
"Bill and I entered the legislature together. It was a true honor to serve with and learn from him," Clemmons added. "He was a source of advice, inspiration and much-needed levity for me & many others at the most crucial moments. Everyone privileged enough to ever cross Bill’s path knows what a special person and caring individual he was."
Also issuing a statement was House Minority Leader Karen Camper (D-Memphis), who said, "Bill Beck was one of my closest friends. He was not only my colleague, but also my confidant. His warmth, intellect and passion for people made the House a better place."
"Bill was well respected by members on both sides of the aisle," she added. "No matter the political differences of an issue, Bill would always find the humanity in a situation. Any encounter with Bill made your day better. I will miss his laugh and his counsel."
The Tennessean noted that several other state and local politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, also expressed their condolences and paid tribute to State Rep. Beck following his untimely death.
One of those was Democratic Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who tweeted, "Bill Beck was a constant charming and kind presence. He brightened every room with his grace and wit, and he made politics better for us all. Bill was a true friend, and we will miss him everyday. Our prayers are with his wife Pam & their family as we all mourn this tragic loss."
Likewise, Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement that he and his wife, Maria Lee, were "deeply saddened by the passing of Rep. Bill Beck, a faithful, dedicated public servant and friend. We pray God’s peace and comfort over his family and loved ones during this time."
The outlet noted that the House GOP Caucus heralded State Rep. Beck as "a passionate public servant whose hard work and unwavering dedication to the people of Nashville served as an example to us all," and GOP Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison said that his beloved late colleague "had that ability to still be your friend even when he totally disagreed with you."
Indeed, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) said in a two-part tweet, "We are incredibly saddened to hear that our colleague, Rep. Bill Beck, has unexpectedly passed away. Bill was a dedicated servant and powerful voice for the city of Nashville, a husband, father, and friend to everyone in the General Assembly."
The Republican Speaker added, "His quick wit and unforgettable laugh could always lighten a committee meeting or the proceedings on the House floor. We express our sincere condolences and prayers to Bill’s family during this difficult time. Rep. Beck will be greatly missed."