Former Arkansas Gov. and Sen. Dale Bumpers died Friday night, according to his family. He was 90.

Bumper was known as a relatively unknown lawyer who rose in politics through a series of improbable victories and for defending fellow Democrat Bill Clinton during the president's impeachment trial.

Bumpers’ first election victory was his defeat of former Gov. Orval Faubus in the 1970 Democratic gubernatorial primary. He then upset incumbent Republican Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller in the general election. Four years later he defeated incumbent U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright in the Democratic primary and won the seat.

Bumpers earned the nickname "giant killer" for taking down incumbents.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe told a local TV station: “Dale Bumpers gave me my start in public service and remained my dear friend and mentor throughout the decades. … He paired his light-hearted swagger with his unabashed love for the Arkansans who carried him from a Charleston, Arkansas, law office to the halls of the U.S. Senate.”

Before running for elected office, Bumpers was an attorney for the Charleston School Board in 1954, when the district became first in the 11 former Confederate states to integrate.

He died in Little Rock, Ark., surround by family, said his son, Brett Bumpers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.