Ghana's President John Atta Mills, who died suddenly on Tuesday five months before he was due to stand for reelection, was a law professor turned politician who had long sought his country's top job. He was 68.
The West African nation's presidency said he died hours after falling ill at a hospital in the capital Accra, but did not provide a cause.
Mills finally claimed the presidency in 2008, after losing twice previously to former president John Kufuor, in 2000 and again in 2004. He oversaw the start of large-scale oil production in Ghana in December 2010.
Family members previously said that Mills, a former vice-president to the mercurial and charismatic ex-leader Jerry Rawlings, grew up with a "desire to serve others, especially the under-privileged".
The soft-spoken Mills was finally elected under the slogan "A Better Man for a Better Ghana."
Mills rose to prominence in 1997 when Rawlings named him vice president -- a position he held until the former coup leader-turned-elected president made way for Kufuor after the 2000 elections.
Some analysts said that his political career was hampered by the fact that he was seen as too close to Rawlings.
Representing the National Democratic Congress, Mills, popularly referred to as "The Prof", had presented himself as transparent, humble and willing to learn from his mistakes.
He based his presidential campaign on a call for change and a move towards what he called "welfarism and a people-centred approach to managing the affairs of state".
A democracy advocate once described Mills, who at one time headed the national revenue collection agency, as "principled" and "not corruptible".
He had more than a dozen publications to his credit, many of them on taxation.
His affable, down-to-earth style disguised an "exceptional academic brilliance and an incredible athletic prowess," his brother has said.
After finishing his law studies in Britain, Mills came home to teach law for 25 years at a Ghana university.
A football fanatic like so many other Ghanaians, he was also an avid hockey player and was said to have swam almost daily for about two hours. He had served on the board of one of Ghana's top football clubs, Hearts of Oak and also supported English Premier League side Manchester United.
Mills was married and had a son who is now in his twenties.
According to the constitution, Vice President John Dramani Mahama is to take over as interim leader and he was to address the nation shortly.© ANP/AFP