Known affectionately as “Hawkie,” Hawke was Australia’s prime minister from 1983 to 1991, winning four elections and becoming the country’s third longest-serving leader.
His wife, Blanche D’Alpuget, released a statement on Thursday describing her husband as “the greatest Australian of the post-war era.”
“Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and their governments modernised the Australian economy, paving the way for an unprecedented period of recession-free economic growth and job creation,” her statement said.
A Rhodes scholar who graduated from Oxford University in 1956, Hawke quickly rose through the ranks of Australia’s trade union movement to become the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1970, according to the Museum of Australian Democracy.
In 1983, after only being in parliament for three years, he became Australia’s prime minister and would go on to serve for almost nine years in the country’s top job.
Famous for his bouffant hair and cheeky sense of humor, Hawke reportedly held the world record for skolling a yard of beer in the quickest time when he was a student at Oxford.
When an Australian yacht won the America’s Cup in September 1983, Hawke famously declared, “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”
But he was also a major economic reformer who with his then-treasurer Paul Keating liberalized the Australian economy, floating the Australian dollar and brought in universal healthcare for all citizens.
In the end, it was Keating who took his job as leader of the Labor Party in 1991 coup.
But even after he left office, Hawke remained one of Australia’s most popular prime ministers, regularly invited to quickly drink beers at major sporting events by attendees to cheers and applause.
In a statement, opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten said that “the Australian people loved Bob Hawke because they knew Bob loved them.”
“In Australian history, in Australian politics, there will always be B.H. and A.H: Before Hawke and After Hawke. After Hawke, we were a different country. A kinder, better, bigger and bolder country,” he said.