MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Rep. Jim Patterson, a legislator perhaps best known for pushing through autism legislation, died Monday of a heart attack.

Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon confirmed Patterson’s death in a statement. Patterson is survived by his wife, Susan Carter Patterson, and their children.

“All of us in the Alabama State House will miss ‘Big Jim’ and his equally big personality,” McCutcheon said in a statement.

Patterson, a Republican from Meridianville, was first elected to the Alabama Legislature in 2010.

According to his legislative biography, Patterson served in the United States Army from 1972 until 1976 and then served another six years in the Army Reserves. He retired after 29 years as a pharmaceutical representative.

Patterson this year successfully sponsored legislation to mandate insurance coverage of autism therapy. When the bill cleared the Alabama Senate in May, Patterson told reporters that it was a rare example of, “the people getting their way, as opposed to the special interests getting their way.”

“We need more of this is Montgomery,” Patterson said at the time.