Associated Press

COLUMBIA- Former South Carolina Rep. Herb Kirsh, the longest-serving House member when he left office in 2010, has died. He was 84.

M.L. Ford & Sons Funeral Home in Clover confirms that Kirsh died Tuesday evening at a hospital in Gaston County, N.C.

The Democrat served 32 years in the House before losing a re-election bid in 2010 to Republican and former solicitor Tommy Pope. The top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Kirsh was a fiscal conservative who meticulously scrutinized state budget proposals. Colleagues of both parties relied on his knowledge of the budget as it moved through the legislative process.

Though he refused requests to switch parties after Republicans took control of the Legislature, he led Ways and Means meetings if the Republican chairman was absent.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell said Kirsh will be deeply missed by his colleagues and constituents.

"Herb Kirsh was a legendary man and legislator, a true statesman," said Harrell, R-Charleston, who served with him for 18 years. "A die-hard fiscal conservative, a Blue Dog Democrat, he always stayed true to his beliefs and he fought hard for what he believed was right."

Former Gov. David Beasley called him a "friend of the taxpayer."

"Herb probably knew more about the state budget than anyone in the General Assembly, because he knew that the dollars that budget spent didn't belong to government, they belonged to the people who sent us to Columbia to represent them," Beasley, who also was first elected to the House in 1978, posted on his Facebook page.

Kirsh began his political career in 1970 on Clover Town Council and served as mayor from 1975 to 1978.

Kevin Kirsh told The Herald of Rock Hill that his father had been hospitalized Saturday after doctors found blood clots in his legs. He had been in hospitals and rehabilitation centers since a series of falls in December.

Rep. Kirsh's wife of 59 years, Sue, died in February 2009 at age 78. A legislative resolution adopted by the House weeks later recognized, among other things, that she traveled to Columbia with her husband and led tours of the Governor's Mansion for 25 years. Their anniversary would have been Wednesday.