LITTLE ROCK — Former state Sen. Stanley Russ of Conway died Thursday at the age of 86, about three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia.

State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said Thursday night in a post on Twitter, “Our community grieves this evening over the loss of Sen. Stanley Russ — one of the best men I ever knew. He was a man God only made one time.”

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said in a statement Friday, “Martha and I were saddened to learn about the loss of our friend, former state Senator Stanley Russ. For two decades Stanley was a friend and sound adviser. Our state and the Faulkner County community will miss Stanley’s smile, enthusiasm, and ability to get things done to enrich the lives of Arkansans.”

Russ served as a senator from Conway from 1975-99. He led the Senate as president pro tem from 1995-97 and served as majority leader in 1997.

In an interview Friday, Rapert said his first contact with Russ was when Rapert was in college and wrote a letter to the editor about the importance of voting, which drew a personal response from Russ offering encouragement.

Rapert said that throughout his political career he has sought Russ’ counsel and received endorsements from him. He said he was told by the family that Russ died peacefully at home.

During his last visit to Russ’ home, Rapert said Russ told him to let people know he was at peace. He said Russ showed he had not lost his humor when he joked, “I’m just tickled to death.”

“He was a prince of a guy,” Rapert said.

Born in Conway, Russ graduated from Conway High School and attended Arkansas Tech University and Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas, before obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas.

He served in the Army from 1952-1954 and later in the Arkansas National Guard. He farmed, raised cattle and operated an insurance business in Conway.

Russ and his wife, Nina, had two children. Nina Russ died in 2005.

Russ’ funeral will be 1 p.m. Monday at Central Baptist Church in Conway, according to the website of Roller-McNutt Funeral Home of Conway.