Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Jimmy Newton Jr. walked on March 31, 2014 after an extended illness.
Newton, who has been involved in tribal politics since 2003, was just 37 years old. He was one of the youngest tribal members to ever successfully run for a seat on the Southern Ute Tribal Council. He became tribal chairman in December 2011, according to The Durango Herald.
“Colorado and the Southern Ute Tribe have lost a strong advocate and leader in Chairman Jimmy Newton, and our thoughts are with his family and community,” Senator Michael Bennet said in a prepared statement. “As one of the youngest people to ever serve on the tribal council, he was an effective and dedicated leader for a new generation, and he will be greatly missed.”
Newton leaves behind a wife, Flora Murphy, and an 18-yaer-old daughter, Maylon Kaye Newton.
The Herald reported that Newton had been on sick leave since mid-March. Matthew Box, a former Southern Ute chairman, told the newspaper that because the community is small—about 1,500—the loss of Newton will be felt by the whole community.
“We’ve been part of his visions, his travels, his growing up,” Box told The Herald Tuesday afternoon. “It will hurt and leave a void in our hearts for a while.”
Vice-Chairman James M. Olguin will serve as chairman until a special election is held. The constitution calls for the special election to be held within 60 days.
“Chairman Newton served this Tribe and its members for over a decade. He dedicated his career to helping his fellow Tribal Council and all enrolled members of the Tribe,” Olguin said in a press release. “His passing leaves us without our veteran leader and with a huge hole in the heart of all who worked with or knew him.
“We will mourn Chairman Newton but we will also honor him, his leadership, and his legacy by continuing our hard work to strengthen our Tribe and support our members,” Olguin continued.
Arrangements for a memorial services are pending.