(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has died at age 79, two law enforcement sources told ABC News on Saturday.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said in a statement: "On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family."
Scalia died Saturday in Texas of apparently natural causes, according to law enforcement sources.
Scalia, a conservative, was the longest-serving current justice on the Supreme Court. He was nominated to the court by President Reagan and took his seat Sept. 26, 1986.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement on Saturday, "Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law."
"He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution. His fierce loyalty to the Constitution set an unmatched example, not just for judges and lawyers, but for all Americans," Abbott said.
"We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law," Abbott said.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called Scalia "a champion of our liberties and a stalwart defender of the Constitution," in a Facebook post Saturday. "He will go down as one of the few Justices who single-handedly changed the course of legal history."
"As liberals and conservatives alike would agree, through his powerful and persuasive opinions, Justice Scalia fundamentally changed how courts interpret the Constitution and statutes, returning the focus to the original meaning of the text after decades of judicial activism," Cruz said. "And he authored some of the most important decisions ever, including District of Columbia v. Heller, which recognized our fundamental right under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms. He was an unrelenting defender of religious liberty, free speech, federalism, the constitutional separation of powers, and private property rights. All liberty-loving Americans should be in mourning."
"Justice Scalia’s three decades on the Court was one of President Reagan’s most consequential legacies," Cruz continued. "Our prayers are with his beloved wife Maureen, their nine children, and their precious grandchildren."
Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on March 11, 1936. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, Scalia was appointed Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1982. He also served as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel from 1974 to 1977, Chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States from 1972 to 1974 and General Counsel of the Office of Telecommunications Policy from 1971 to 1972.
Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.