(LOS ANGELES) — Larry Flynt, the controversial founder of Hustler magazine, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles following “the recent onset of a sudden illness,” the magazine has confirmed. He was 78.

The mogul, a notable figure in the porn industry for nearly 50 years, “passed quietly in his sleep at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife Liz and daughter Theresa by his side,” according to the statement.

Flynt, a ninth grade dropout, launched his raunchy magazine in 1974, which led to a $400 million empire that included other publications, strip clubs, “adult” shops and several television channels known as Hustler TV.

A self-described First Amendment champion, Flynt was involved in a number of legal battles involving free speech and pornography regulations.

While leaving a 1978 court a hearing in Georgia, he was shot by a gunman, later revealed to be serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.  The shooting left Flynt partially paralyzed from the waist down.  Following the incident, Flynt used a gold-plated, velvet-lined wheelchair.

Flynt was famously sued by televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell in a case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  It inspired the 1996 Oscar-nominated biopic, The People vs. Larry Flynt, in which he was portrayed by Woody Harrelson.

Flynt also dabbled in politics with a brief presidential campaign in 1984, and a run for Governor of California in a 2003 recall election.

By George Costantino
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