(CNN)Bob Hawke, one of Australia's longest-serving Prime Ministers and a champion of the trade union movement, has died peacefully at the age of 89.
Known affectionately by his nickname, "Hawkie" was Australia's prime minister between 1983 and 1991, winning four elections and becoming the country's third longest-tenured leader.
His policies reshaped Australian society, while his vibrant character and sense of humor made him one of the nation's most-admired figures.
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 serving in parliament for just three years, he became Australia's Prime Minister in a landslide election victory.
That success revived Hawke's Labor Party, ushering in a sustained period of rule that lasted until 1996. Hawke served as Prime Minister for almost nine of those 13 years, winning three more polls in the process and cementing his legacy as the party's longest-serving and most electorally successful leader.
In a political landscape that sees regular elections and frequent leadership contests, Hawke's longevity can be matched only by Liberal Prime Ministers Robert Menzies and John Howard.
But Hawke was as famous for his colorful personality as his political achievements, his bouffant hair and cheeky humor ensuring that he has endured in the country's affections long after his career came to a close.
He reportedly held the world record for skulling 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" -- a comment that has forever been associated with the leader.
A keen cricketer, he memorably had his glasses smashed while playing in 1984. And, in a typically withering put-down in 2011, Hawke described then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott as being as "mad as a cut snake."
"Bob Hawke was a great Australian who led and served our country with passion, courage, and an intellectual horsepower that made our country stronger," the country's current leader Scott Morrison said.
"He was true to his beliefs in the Labor tradition and defined the politics of his generation and beyond," Morrison added. "He had a unique ability to speak to all Australians and will be greatly missed."