LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jim King, a Louisville businessman who became one of the most powerful local leaders in the era of merged city and county governments, died late Wednesday. He was 63.
King, who was re-elected as Metro Council president earlier this month, had suffered from the cancer multiple myeloma since late 2012 and had been fighting it successfully until a relapse in late October, according to his wife, Debbie.
King had been noticeably absent at key council meetings during the last few weeks, including December's minimum wage vote and his and fellow council members' swearing-in ceremony last week.
He was a fierce advocate for the greater good of Louisville, and he often helped find common ground on issues of importance to our city,” Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement. “He was a man focused on achieving positive results and a man of great determination, good humor and quick wit.”
“Jim loved working to make Louisville better, and every matter that came before the Metro Council, whether mundane or monumental, got his careful and detailed attention,” Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement.
King had served on the council since it was formed in 2003 and spent five years as the body's president. He also served on the Louisville Arena Authority, first as a nonvoting member through his council positions and later as a full, voting member appointed by Beshear in 2013.
King, a Democrat, worked with Republican council member Kelly Downard to craft and push through an ordinance meant to minimize the city's financial contribution on the KFC Yum! Center construction debt. And he was instrumental in crafting changes to a financially struggling tax increment financing district for the arena in 2013.
“We would never have gotten the arena done without his help,” said Jim Host, a former Kentucky Commerce Secretary and arena authority chairman. Host credited King's “total understanding he had of the process” of financing and the politics of the Metro Council.
WDRB President and General Manager Bill Lamb, a close friend of King for more than a decade, said King brought financial expertise and maturity to the council.
“He is going to be sorely missed for his intellect, for his wisdom and for his calming effect on the council,” he said.
King was "the most influential person in city government," Lamb said Thursday.
"He got things done that couldn't have been done otherwise. He got people talking together who wouldn't normally work together well. He was a facilitator, and he was, sort of, the grown up in the room," Lamb said.
Although King was ill, he accepted the council's nomination as president last week. He did so because he believed he would fully recover from his illness, according to his wife.
King was the head of King Southern Bank and the father of District Court Judge Katie King. He ran for mayor in 2010, but lost the Democratic nomination to Fischer.
A visitation for King will be held at Highlands Funeral Home, 3331 Taylorsville Road, from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. The funeral will be Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Raphael Church.
David James, a Democrat representing Old Louisville, will become president of the Metro Council, though the council can elect a different member to serve in that role if it so chooses. The council will appoint someone to fill King's seat until the next election in November.
King's District 10 includes parts of the Highlands, Germantown, Camp Taylor and Beuchel.
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