TRENTON — The Assembly's longest serving legislator, Assemblyman Jerry Green, died Tuesday three days after he turned 79.

The Democrat, who served the 22nd District in Union County since 1992, stepped down as chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee in January for medical reasons. Green had not voted or attended committee meetings this session.

He also had been the speaker pro tempore for the Assembly since 2008. He was a chair of the Housing and Community Development, and a member of the Health and Senior Services and the Joint Committee on Housing Affordability.

"Tammy and I are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Assemblyman Jerry Green, whose advocacy and love for Union County and his home of Plainfield was unquestioned," Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. "While Jerry could be tough as nails, he was also a gentleman, whose bigger-than-New Jersey smile and quiet humor could easily light up a room. He was nice to me during the early years when he didn't need to be, and I am proud to have called him my friend."

State Sen. Nick Scutari, D-Union, said "he was so much more than just a colleague and mentor to succeeding generations of politicians – he was a true gentleman legislator who should be remembered for championing progressive policies aimed at helping those in need."

“Jerry Green was a giant of the Assembly," Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said. "He loved public policy, always strove to help the least fortunate among us and took great joy in mentoring new members and staff. He was New Jersey’s leading expert on affordable housing, a problem he never stopped trying to solve."

"When Jerry entered a room, he did so with a smile, a handshake and a hug, and when Jerry spoke, everyone listened,"Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald wrote in a statement. "He commanded respect, but he was also a kind-hearted man who put everyone else first. He was a true leader."

Fellow Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli was saddened at the loss of his friend.

"When Jerry had something to say, the room stopped. He had well-earned respect, and his leadership helped guide many members and staff. He was tough-as-nails, yet had a heart of gold," Burzichelli wrote.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ