Former U.S. Senator and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen has died in Texas at the age of 85.

Lloyd Bentsen died at his home in Houston. He had been in poor health since suffering a stroke several years ago.

In Washington, some of his former senate colleagues paid tribute.

Harry Reid of Nevada is the Senate Democratic leader.

"The state of Texas has had great senators. But no senator has ever been a better senator than Lloyd Bentsen," he said.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Tony Snow also recalled Bentsen's national service.

"Obviously, Senator Bentsen served his country long and well and faithfully and he was a much-loved character here in Washington," noted Snow.

By the age of 21, Lloyd Bentsen had flown 50 bomber missions over Europe during World War II. After the war, Bentsen went into politics in his home state of Texas.

Bentsen was elected a congressman in 1948 and served a total of six years. Then he took a break from politics and made millions of dollars by starting an insurance company and a consulting business.

But he returned to Texas politics in 1970 by winning a Senate seat.

His Republican opponent that year was a congressman named George Bush. He would go on to win the presidency in 1988. 

In the Senate, Bentsen was known as a pro-business Democrat and an expert on tax and international trade issues as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Bentsen sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1976 but lost out to former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.

In 1988, Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis picked Bentsen to be his vice-presidential running mate.

Lloyd Bentsen spoke that year to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

"We believe that America deserves an administration that will obey the law, tell the truth and insist all who serve it do the same," he said.

It was during the 1988 presidential election that Lloyd Bentsen made campaign history during a debate with the Republican vice presidential candidate, Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana.

Quayle's contention that had sufficient experience to be vice president brought a memorable response from Bentsen.

QUAYLE: "I have as much experience as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency."

BENTSEN: "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

Despite that rhetorical flourish, Dukakis and Bentsen lost the 1988 election to the Republican ticket headed by George Bush, who was President Ronald Reagan's vice president.

In 1993, Lloyd Bentsen was appointed as Treasury Secretary in President Bill Clinton's cabinet. He became one of the architect's of the Clinton deficit reduction program that led to an economic boom. He also won bipartisan praise for his handling of international economic issues.

In 1999, Lloyd Bentsen was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, the nation's highest civilian order, for distinguished service to the country.