Arlen Specter, who brought a prosecutor's focus on detail and disdain for deception to the job of U.S. senator, representing Pennsylvania as a Republican for 29 years and a Democrat for his unorthodox final year, has died. He was 82.

He died Sunday at his home in Philadelphia, The Associated Press reported, citing his son, Shanin. The cause was complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In 2005, Specter announced he had Hodgkin's disease, cancer of the lymphatic system, and underwent chemotherapy. A recurrence three years later led to further treatment.

A former district attorney of Philadelphia, Specter showed off his mastery of the fine points of law while serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee during his entire 30-year congressional career.

His stubborn independence and flashes of contempt for those who disagreed with him earned him the nickname "Snarlin' Arlen." Weighing the removal of President Bill Clinton on two counts of impeachment in 1999, Specter criticized the "pseudo-trial" the Senate had held and, citing Scottish law, chose to vote "not proven," rather than guilty or not guilty.

He participated in the confirmation hearings of 13 nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, including, notably, that of Clarence Thomas in 1991.

In televised hearings that inflamed racial and gender divisions and riveted a national audience, Specter became one of the harshest questioners and outspoken doubters of Anita Hill, a law professor. She testified that Thomas had repeatedly talked about sex and pornographic films while he was her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Senate narrowly confirmed Thomas, 52-48, with Specter among those who voted yes.

In another high court confirmation battle, Specter was among six Republicans who joined Democrats in 1987 in rejecting Robert Bork, who had been nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

In his first experience with a congressional inquiry, Specter served as an assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, which in 1964 investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

At 65, he started a campaign for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination as an "economic conservative and a social libertarian." He differentiated himself from the rest of the field with criticism of the religious-right movement as an unhelpful "fringe" group.

"If they control the party, they're going to lead us to certain disaster," Specter said.

Latest videos