The 73-year-old star was known for his folksy demeanor and conservative opinions

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Fred Thompson, a former U.S. senator and Law & Order star died on Sunday, according to a statement issued by his family. He was 73.

“It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of grief that we share the passing of our brother, husband, father, and grandfather who died peacefully in Nashville surrounded by his family,” the family said in a statement to The Tennessean.

“Fred believed that the greatness of our nation was defined by the hard work, faith, and honesty of its people,” the statement continued. “He had an enduring belief in the exceptionalism of our country, and that America could provide the opportunity for any boy or girl, in any corner of our country, to succeed in life.”

Born in Alabama, Thompson worked as an assistant U.S. attorney after getting his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1967. He was later appointed as the committee counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee investigating then-president Richard Nixon. Thompson famously grilled former White House aide Alexander Butterfield about recording devices within the presidential residence during a public hearing, which eventually led to Nixon resigning from his position.

After serving on the committee, Thompson worked as a lobbyist for 20 years before moving into the film world by playing himself in 1985’s Marie, a film version of one of his high-profile cases. He successfully won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1994 when he ran for then-Vice President Al Gore’s remaining term in the Senate. Thompson won re-election in 1996 but chose not to run again in 2002.

While politics always remained a big part of Thompson’s life, he still remained a part of the acting world. After Marie, he landed roles in The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard 2, but he was perhaps most famously known for his five year stint on NBC’s Law & Order where he played Arthur Branch from 2002 to 2007.

Thompson took a break from Hollywood to pursue the Republican presidential nomination for the 2008 election, although he ultimately lost out to Sen. John McCain.

Despite his brief break from the acting world, he returned to it after the election, most recently starring in the TV show Allegiance and 90 Minutes in Heaven alongside Kate Bosworth and Hayden Christensen.

Still, Thompson remained actively interested in politics. His most recent tweets focused on Hillary Clinton’s email scandal as well as sharing his thoughts on the shootings in Roseburg, Oregon, and New York City’s struggle to deal with stray cats.

Thompson is survived by his wife, Jeri, and three children – Fred Thompson Jr., Hayden Victoria Thompson and Samuel Thompson.