SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) _ Former U.S. Rep. George Mahon, who spent 44 years representing Texas, was ''the kind of statesman you read about,'' colleagues said after Mahon's death at the age of 85.

Mahon, a friend of President Lyndon Johnson, died Tuesday at Shannon West Texas Memorial Hospital, nursing supervisor Verna Morse said. Nephew Bryan Mahon said the former Democratic congressman died of a heart attack.

He said his uncle had been hospitalized for a week following surgery to replace a knee joint.

''He was the kind of statesman you read about in the school books,'' said Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas. ''His was the level of public service that should be the goal of every officeholder. He was a dear friend and we will all miss him.''

Rep. Kent Hance, who succeeded Mahon as congressman for the 19th District of Texas when he retired in 1978, said, ''He walked with kings but kept the common man's touch.''

House Majority Leader Jim Wright said in a statement that Mahon ''was the epitome of honor. For half a century he faithfully served the people and best interests of West Texas.

''His lanky frame, quiet wisdom and gentle humor cast a long shadow across the land. Those of us who knew, loved and respected him have lost a cherished friend.''

Mahon was appointed chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in 1964 and held the office until his retirement. He was first elected to Congress in 1934, when he was a young district attorney in Colorado City.

Born Sept. 22, 1900 near Haynesville, La., Mahon was brought by his parents to Mitchell County, Texas, in 1908, and was reared on a farm.

He graduated from Simmons University in Abilene in 1924 and earned a law degree later from the University of Texas.

Funeral services were scheduled Friday at the First Methodist Church in Lubbock, with burial in the Loraine Cemetery in Mitchell County.

Mahon is survived by his wife Helen, his daughter, Daphne Holt of Dallas, three sisters, a brother, three grandchildren and nieces and nephews including U.S. District Judge Eldon Mahon of Fort Worth.