UPDATED: 2/13/16 8:46 p.m.


Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “a man of God, a patriot and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law” in a statement issued Saturday afternoon that said the 79-year-old justice has died.

CBS News tweeted Scalia was found dead at a West Texas ranch.

CBS News reported Scalia “appeared to die of natural causes,” according to a U.S. Marshals Service spokesperson.

The replacement for Scalia, who was a fierce conservative on the court, would be President Barack Obama’s third Supreme Court nomination, CBS News reported. Former President Ronald Reagan nominated Scalia to the court in 1986.

Many current and former political officials — including Abbott, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former President George W. Bush — weighed in with statements of mourning following reports of the justice’s death.

Cruz, who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, tweeted, “We owe it to [Scalia], and the nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next president names his replacement.”

In his statement, Cruz said Scalia “will go down as one of the few justices who single-handedly changed the course of legal history.”

“As liberals and conservatives alike would agree, through his powerful and persuasive opinions, Justice Scalia fundamentally changed how courts interpret the Constitution and statutes, returning the focus to the original meaning of the text after decades of judicial activism,” Cruz’s statement continued. “He was an unrelenting defender of religious liberty, free speech, federalism, the constitutional separation of powers and private property rights. All liberty-loving Americans should be in mourning.”

Abbott said Scalia set an example for citizens.

“His fierce loyalty to the Constitution set an unmatched example, not just for judges and lawyers, but for all Americans,” Abbott’s statement continued. “We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

Bush said Scalia will be missed.

“Laura and I mourn the death of a brilliant jurist and important American, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” Bush’s statement said. “He was a towering figure and important judge on our nation’s highest court. He brought intellect, good judgment and wit to the bench, and he will be missed by his colleagues and our country.”

North Texas Congressman Pete Sessions commented on Twitter about Scalia’s legacy.

“I pray that future generations of American patriots will continue to champion the Constitution like Justice Scalia did, and I pray for his family during this difficult time,” Sessions said in a statement.

Sen. John Cornyn called Scalia “brilliant, principled and resolute in his beliefs.”

“The author of some of the most consequential and best-written Supreme Court opinions, Justice Scalia will be remembered as a giant of American jurisprudence,” Cornyn’s statement read. “Justice Scalia’s commitment to the law was unwavering, and his devotion to his faith and to his family was unquestionable. Sandy and I are saddened by today’s news, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Presidential contenders other than Cruz offered thoughts on Twitter regarding Scalia’s death, as well.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)