Tommy Irvin, Georgia agriculture chief

Former Georgia Agricul­ture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, whose four decades in office made him one of the longest-serving statewide officials in the U.S., died at age 88, the department he once ran confirmed Friday.

First appointed as state agriculture head in 1969 by then-Gov. Lester Maddox, Irvin won 10 consecutive elections before deciding to retire in 2011 because of age and health reasons.

“Commissioner Irvin loved serving Georgia’s farmers and consumers for over three generations. He touched us all with his unsurpassed spirit of stewardship, commitment and work ethic,” Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, a Republican who succeeded the Democrat Irvin, said in a statement Friday.

Black’s spokeswoman, Leslie Davis, confirmed Irvin’s death, saying his family had been in contact with the department. The cause of his death was not immediately known. Irvin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2006.

For most of his career, the 6-foot-5 Irvin was both the promoter and safety regulator of agriculture, Georgia’s largest industry.

Georgia had a succession of seven governors during Irvin’s long tenure.