Former Sen. Alan J. Dixon (via Wikipedia)

Former U.S. Senator Alan J. Dixon (D-Ill.) died Sunday at his downstate Illinois home, his son said. He would have turned 87 Monday.

Dixon, who served two terms in the Senate following stints as state treasurer and in the Illinois legislature, had suffered heart problems, his son Jeff Dixon told the Chicago Tribune. He died at his home in Fairview Heights near St. Louis.

"He fought the good fight," Jeff Dixon told the Belleville News-Democrat. "He passed away in his sleep. I was in shock, but he went peacefully."

Dixon lost his primary bid for a third term in the Senate to Carol Mosely Braun, the first black woman ever elected to the Senate, following his vote to approve the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas. It was his first political loss in 40 years.

“Generally speaking, my political career was built on goodwill and accommodation,” Dixon, known as "Al the Pal," wrote in his memoir, "The Gentleman from Illinois: Stories From Forty Years of Elective Public Service."

Before his ouster, Dixon became the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate and was a member of the Armed Services and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committees.

"He was a statesman, but he was also a warm and friendly soul who never met a stranger," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement. "He will be missed."

Former Gov. Jim Thompson, a Republican, called Dixon "a magnificent guy to know."

“From his days as a police magistrate in Belleville to his leadership position in the United States Senate, Alan Dixon was known for his honesty, his hard work and his commitment to the state he loved. Alan was the first statewide Democrat to voluntarily make a full disclosure of his net worth. Alan started the first bipartisan Illinois congressional lunches, a tradition which continues to this day,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement. “His friendships reached across the aisle and across our state. I lost a pal today and Illinois lost a man who brought honor to public service.”

Dixon is survived by his wife Jody and three children.