(CNN) - Longtime Republican Rep. Howard Coble of North Carolina announced Thursday he plans to retire at the end of his term rather than seek re-election next year.
The 15-term Congressman announced his decision at a press conference in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Coble, 82, represents North Carolina's 6th Congressional District, a reliably Republican seat.
Before Coble made his announcement, nonpartisan political handicappers Stuart Rothenberg and Charlie Cook both rated the district as solid or safe for the GOP.
George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney each easily carried the district by double digits in the past three presidential elections.
Praises poured in Thursday for the Congressman, who was first elected in 1984.
"Known in the House as the 'Sharp Pencil' due to his commitment to reigning in spending, cutting government waste and bringing commonsense policies to the floor, Howard's dedication to our country has left a lasting legacy," Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee said in a statement.
Walden added he was "confident" voters will keep the district in Republican hands.
Fellow North Carolina Rep. David Price, a Democrat, offered kind praise for his colleague on the other side of the aisle, saying Coble "reminds us of a time when our politics were less hard-edged."
"Always ready with a kind word for everyone–from fellow representatives to capitol police to constituents–it's difficult to walk anywhere with Howard in Washington, D.C. or North Carolina without being stopped several times because he has so many friends who want to chat with him," Price said in a statement.
"I have always especially enjoyed introducing my staff to Howard," he continued. "His first question being what high school they attended, and his second question being, 'what's it like working for this scallywag?'"
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attempted to frame Coble's upcoming departure as "jumping ship."
"Barely a day goes by without another Republican jumping ship from Speaker John Boehner's disastrous Republican Congress – because House Republicans aren't giving up their reckless behavior and focusing on the right priorities like creating jobs," the group said in a statement.
Before his tenure in Congress, Coble served in the U.S. Coast Guard and worked as an Assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina. He also served as the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Revenue, and practiced law at a firm in Greensboro.
- CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.