Nueces County leaders mourned the passing of a longtime and pivotal figure in the Republican Party last week.

Joel Yowell, considered by many in Nueces County to be the “Godfather of the Republican Party,” passed away Friday at the age of 84. Yowell was reportedly at the party’s headquarters in Corpus Christi attending a meeting when he collapsed. He later died at a local hospital.

County officials said Yowell, who served as the Republican Party’s chairman from 2000 to 2006, was an ardent supporter of the Republican Party even when it was unheard of in the county.

“He was active in the Republican Party when there were no Republican officials in Nueces County. He just persevered,” County Judge Loyd Neal said. “Joel had a great love for this county and a great love for conservative values.”

Neal said Yowell, a U.S. Air Force veteran, had a wealth of knowledge that was unmatched in regards to voting demographics and patterns that played a pivotal role in the party’s growth in recent years. The work Yowell did over the past few decades for the party paid off last year, when Republicans swept into offices at the federal, state and county levels in areas long held by Democrats, Neal added.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Pusley said he was glad that Yowell was able to see the fruits of his labor realized.

“Joel was an absolutely critical part of the Republican Party here in Nueces County,” Pusley said. “He’s going to be missed.”