Tommy Irvin, longtime Georgia agriculture chief, dies at 88

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Former Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, who was one of the longest-serving statewide officials in the country, has died. He was 88.

Current Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in a statement Friday said Irvin "loved serving Georgia's farmers and consumers for over three generations." Black's spokeswoman confirmed the death, saying the department had spoken with Irvin's family.

Irvin was first appointed agriculture commissioner in 1969. He then won 10 consecutive elections before deciding to retire in 2011. He oversaw the oldest agriculture department in the country, serving as its public face.

Irvin remained a self-styled "Yellow Dog Democrat" after the civil rights movement and the rise of the Republican Party in the South.