Former State Senator Ronald L. Rice of Newark has died at the age of 77 after a battle with cancer.

Rice was a Vietnam War combat veteran, Newark police officer and detective, trailblazing Newark City Councilman, deputy mayor and community organizer, and Legislative Black Caucus Chairman. He is remembered as a fiercely proud and outspoken lawmaker who often held the state budget hostage until he extracted social justice measures for New Jersey.

In August, the Newark lawmaker resigned from his legislative seat after a 36-year career in the state senate. He had been the state’s longest-serving black lawmaker.