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CALHOUN, Ga. (AP) -- Bert Lance, a Georgia banker and close ally of former President Jimmy Carter who served as his first budget director before departing amid an investigation of his bank's lending practices, has died. He was 82.

Gordon County, Ga., deputy coroner Heath Derryberry said Lance died Thursday night in northwest Georgia. He said Lance had struggled recently with unspecified health problems, though authorities were unsure of his cause of death.

In a statement, Carter said Lance was one of his closest personal friends and that he was a dependable source of advice on intricate state and national issues.

Lance, a former president of the National Bank of Georgia and state highway director, followed Carter to Washington and became OMB director before his career was derailed by what became known as "Lancegate."

He later chaired Georgia's Democratic Party in the early 1980s.