HOUSTON -- Former Texas Gov. Mark White, a Democrat who championed public education reforms, including the landmark "no-pass, no-play" policy for high school athletes, has died. He was 77.

His wife, Linda, says White died Saturday. She wasn't certain of the cause of death.

White served as 43rd governor from 1983 until 1987. The education policies approved during his single term included pay raises and competency tests for teachers, class size limits for elementary schools and the state's high school basic skills graduation test.

White also pushed through a $4 billion tax hike to help pay for schools and highways. The no-pass, no-play legislation was an unpopular move that had to survive a challenge at the state Supreme Court. White was defeated in 1986 by Republican Bill Clements and lost another election bid in the 1990 Democratic primary.

(Photo: State Preservation Board) 

"Mark White cared deeply about Texas, and he devoted his life to making our state even better, particularly when it came to educating our children," wrote Gov. Greg Abbott. “Mark’s impact on Texas will not soon be forgotten, and his legacy will live on through all that he achieved as Governor."

Flags statewide will be lowered to half-staff in honor of Gov. White. He leaves behind a wife, two sons and a daughter.

He was a native of Henderson, Texas and attended public schools in Houston. He graduated from Baylor University where he received his bachelors and law degree.

Prior to being governor, he served as an Assistant Attorney General and Attorney General.

The Houston Independent School District's Mark White Elementary School was named in his honor. The former governor attended the opening ceremony in December 2016.