Jim Smith, remembered for pivotal role in shaping modern Yukon, dies at 97

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Jim Smith, remembered for pivotal role in shaping modern Yukon, dies at 97

Jim Smith, credited with laying the foundations for much of contemporary Yukon governance, died Friday surrounded by family.

He was 97.

Smith served as the Commissioner of Yukon from 1966 to 1976, a time when local elected officials advised the commissioner who oversaw the territory on behalf of the federal government.

During those years, Smith set Yukon on the path that led to the creation of the territorial legislature and the eventual transfer of land and resources from Ottawa to local control, according to current commissioner Doug Phillips.

"Commissioner Jim Smith had a passionate belief that the control and management of Yukon's land and resources and constitutional affairs should be in the hands of elected Yukoners," said Phillips in a statement.

"He laid a solid foundation for the development of responsible government and the achievement of the devolution of Yukon land and resources in 2003. All Yukoners remain forever in his debt," he said.

Premier Sandy Silver also noted that Smith led the territory during a time of change.

"That transition helped make Yukon what it is today," said Silver.

"He will be remembered for his contributions to Yukon by everyone who had the fortune to meet him, and even those who did not."

Smith was one of the founders of the Arctic Winter Games working with Northwest Territories commissioner Stuart Hodgson and Alaska governor Walter Hickel.

He was also instrumental in the creation of Kluane National Park and the designation of the Chilkoot Trail as a national historic site, according to a Yukon government release.

Smith's grandson, James Murdoch, said Smith was involved in almost every pivotal moment of Yukon's development in the 1960s and '70s.

"He really was one of the big creators of  sort of modern-day Yukon, and I know that he took a lot of pride and a lot of frustration and, you know, he had wonderful stories to tell about all of those situations," he said.

'Kind, genuine, interested person'

Murdoch says he was not only Smith's grandson, but the two were also good friends. He said when the two were together his grandfather would often stop to chat with acquaintances and Smith would remember everything about them and their family members.

"I think everyone will remember him fondly. He was a really kind, genuine, interested person," said Murdoch.

Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced later.