Jim King, Metro Council president, dies of multiple myeloma

RAW: Fischer says King was a 'great, strong leader'
Published: Jan. 15, 2015 at 1:09 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2015 at 1:09 PM EST
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The flags outside Metro Hall were lowered to half-staff in King's honor. (Source: James Thomas,...
The flags outside Metro Hall were lowered to half-staff in King's honor. (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Flowers were left on King's parking space outside Metro Hall. (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Flowers were left on King's parking space outside Metro Hall. (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Metro Council President Jim King died late Wednesday of multiple myeloma, a form of blood plasma cancer, his son said.

King had cancer for two years and was on chemotherapy while he worked long days at City Hall. King's son, Jimmy, said Thursday that his father's health became much worse earlier this week.

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David James, who became the temporary council president after King's death, said lawmakers would hold an election next Thursday to choose King's replacement in the leadership post.

Members of the Metro Council along with Mayor Greg Fischer and others witnessed the lowering of the state, city and American flags outside Metro Hall to half staff and held a moment of silence in King's honor at 11 a.m. Thursday.

"Our hearts are broken," said President Pro Tem David James through tears," and we're just going to miss Jim."

"We have lost a very great leader in this city today -- he's not replaceable," said Kelly Downard, King's longtime friend who represents the 16th district. "We've lost a friend, a close friend, and that's not replaceable."

As elected officials across Kentucky offered their condolences, the process of replacing King on the council began at City Hall. Democrats and Republicans held a meeting with Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell about how to proceed.

James, a Democrat who serves the 6th district, automatically became the temporary president until next Thursday's vote.

Uncertainty remains because Attorney General Jack Conway has appointed a special prosecutor to decide whether James has a conflict of interest by serving two sworn positions. James is also a University of Louisville police officer.

James has always contended that he can hold both positions.

O'Connell said Metro government will accept applications from District 10 residents for seven days. The council will have a total of 30 days to choose someone to fill King's seat, O'Connell said.

A special election would be held in November, and the winner would serve out the remainder of King's term, which ends in late 2016.

King, who could often be seen working in the council chambers long after meetings concluded, was absent from several recent meetings, including the vote on a minimum wage increase and the Jan. 5 inauguration and swearing-in of new members.

He was re-elected to another term as president earlier this month despite missing the vote because of illness, and some Democrats voiced concerns about electing an absent member.

Voters first elected King to the seat in 2004. In 2008, he won the first of what would become an unprecedented five terms as the council's president.

King becomes the first council president to die in office and only the second council member in the history of Metro government. Councilman George Unseld died in 2010.

Elected leaders from across Kentucky said King's death was shocking.

"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," Gov. Steve Beshear said. "The city was lucky to have such a dedicated elected official."

"Jim King was a family friend, a businessman who cared deeply about our community and a dedicated public servant," Conway said. "I was saddened to learn of his passing. Louisville has lost one of its champions."

King is credited with final approval of the KFC Yum! Center and, when the center's tax-incremental financing began to struggle, King led the effort to adapt the policy. The arena's outdoor sign read "In Memory of Jim King" on Thursday.

King was born in the St. Joseph's neighborhood on Ervay Avenue,

. He attended St. Raphael Elementary School and St. Xavier High School, graduating in 1969. He graduated from the University of Louisville in 1973.

King's family released funeral information late Thursday afternoon.

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church, 2141 Lancashire Ave. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Saturday and 12-8 p.m. Sunday at Highlands Funeral Home, 3331 Taylorsville Road. King's body will be buried in Calvary Cemetery.

King's family requested that expressions of sympathy be made through contributions to the Louisville Zoo Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, YMCA Safe Place Services, or the Louisville Orchestra.

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