Gammage was found dead at his home in Llano on Monday morning after having stayed up late watching a movie Sunday night, said son Sam Gammage. The cause of death was believed to be a heart attack but no autopsy was planned, said Paula Bundrant, a cousin to Gammage's wife, Lynda.
Llano is a Texas Hill Country town about 65 miles northwest of Austin.
Robert Alton Gammage was born in Houston and served in the Texas House from 1971 until 1973. He was part of the bipartisan group known as the "Dirty 30" that rallied against the speaker of the House and other officials investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The speaker, Gus Mutscher, was later convicted and sentenced to five years' probation for conspiring to accept a bribe.
Gammage served in the Texas Senate for three years beginning in 1973, then left to run for Congress in 1976, defeating Paul, then the Republican incumbent, by fewer than 300 votes. But Paul returned to beat Gammage for the same seat in 1978.
As a 3rd Court of Appeals justice from 1982-91 and a state Supreme Court justice from 1991-95, Gammage dealt repeatedly with major school-finance lawsuits.
He retired from the Texas Supreme Court in 1995, capping
But 11 years later, he launched an unlikely bid for governor citing what he saw as relentless corruption at the state and federal levels. He lost to fellow Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell in the primary. Bell was then defeated by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who was re-elected to his second full term.
Lynda Gammage said that after he retired from the court, her husband continued to do "many, many hours of pro-bono work" for people in-need.
"He always had an open-door policy," she said.
Lynda Gammage said her husband also remained active in Democratic politics, even traveling to Iowa twice for the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton in 1998.
"He was a good man. He was a good public servant. and I just wish he could have cast his absentee ballot for Obama," she said of the upcoming presidential election, recalling how the couple enjoyed watching every night of the Democratic National Convention on television last week.
Bill Brannon, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, called him "a great Democrat and a fine member of the U.S. House of Representatives."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Gammage family," Brannon said. He added that Gammage's longevity and dedication to public service were impressive, noting that "Bob served at a time when partisan flags didn't fly every day" unlike the current political climate.
Waldrope-Hatfield-Hawthorne Funeral Home in Llano, Texas, will hold a viewing from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday in the Senate Chamber at the State Capitol, with burial to follow at the Texas State Cemetery.