Jack Layton, the former Toronto city councillor who would go on lead the federal New Democratic Party, was always known for his fighting spirit. That spirit can be traced back to his great-grandfather Philip Layton, a blind British immigrant who went on to found the Montreal Association for the Blind in 1908.

Below is a timeline of Layton's accomplishments, from his time as a standout high school student with political aspirations to his becoming Leader of Canada's Official Opposition.

1950: Jack Layton is born on July 18, 1950, in Montreal into a family with political roots. His grandfather, Gilbert Layton, was a member of Quebec's legislative assembly for Maurice Duplessis's Union Nationale, until he quit the party in 1939 in protest over Duplessis's opposition to conscription in the Second World War. Layton's father, Robert Layton, served as a cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government in the 1980s.

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Jack Layton's 1966 yearbook photo from Hudson High School (QMI Agency file photo)

1966: Layton is elected student council president at Hudson High School in the predominately anglophone Montreal suburb of Hudson. While at Hudson High, he is an outside linebacker on the school's football team. Upon his graduation in 1967, he spearheads a bid to build a youth centre in Hudson, but is unsuccessful.

1969: Layton marries Sally Halford, a former cheerleader at Hudson, as he works toward an honours BA in political science at McGill University. He also finds time to participate in Quebec's youth parliament in Quebec City, serving as the premier.

1970: After graduating from McGill, Layton moves to Toronto to pursue a master's degree in political science at York University. While at York in 1971, he becomes a member of the New Democratic Party, inspired by Tommy Douglas's stance in the War Measures Act debate during the October Crisis in Quebec. Douglas was leader of the  NDP at the time.

1974: Layton takes a teaching job at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, now Ryerson University. Over the course of his career, he would teach at all three of Toronto's universities.

Late 1970s: While at York and Ryerson, Layton begins to develop relationships with some heavyweights of Toronto's political scene, including John Sewell and David Crombie. He also begins to take an interest in a number of local political issues, including affordable housing, poverty, transportation and responsible development.

1977: Jack Layton's daughter Sarah is born. His son Michael, born in 1980, would eventually carry on the family political tradition, being elected to Toronto city council in 2010.

1982: On the advice of John Sewell, Layton mounts a campaign to be elected alderman in downtown Toronto's Ward 6. Although he faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge from popular incumbent Gordon Chong, Layton wins the election with help from the local NDP branch, whose members rally behind the young challenger.

He goes on to win his ward's seat in the first election for the newly minted Metropolitan Toronto Council in 1985

1980s: Layton takes on many causes during his first few years on Toronto council. He is a vocal critic of the city's plans for the old railway lands near Union Station, opposing the SkyDome project. In 1987, he advocates for the creation of a city-funded education team to help combat the AIDS crisis.

In an incident that later becomes the stuff of Layton legend, he is arrested for trespassing at the Eaton Centre while handing out leaflets during an Eaton's workers strike in 1984, but successfully appeals the conviction in court.

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The wedding of Olivia Chow and Jack Layton in 1988 (QMI Agency file photo)

1988: Divorced from his first wife since 1983, Layton marries Toronto school board trustee Olivia Chow on July 9. Chow herself is soon elected to city council and eventually follows her husband into federal politics, becoming the NDP MP for the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina in 2006.

1990: A newspaper article in June accuses Layton and Chow of unfairly living in the Hazelburn housing co-op, which is subsidized by the federal government. The couple have been living in one of the co-op's three-bedroom units since they were married, paying $800 a month in rent. In their defence, the co-op's board says it is crucial to have a mix of tenants with various levels of income in order for a co-op to succeed and stresses that Layton and Chow pay a supplementary $325 a month in order to offset the government subsidy. Later in the month, after city authorities turn up no evidence of wrongdoing, Layton and Chow move out of the co-op and into a newly purchased house in Chinatown.

1991: In attempts to capitalize on the election of Bob Rae as Ontario's first NDP premier, the provincial wing of the party selects Layton to be its first fully endorsed candidate for mayor of Toronto. Initially, hopes are high as the right-wing vote seems to be split among three candidates. However, Layton's earlier opposition in council to Toronto's (ultimately losing) bid for the 1996 Olympics hurts his popularity, and Rae's government is fast losing favour with many Torontonians. He remains a close second to June Rowlands through the late stages of the campaign but loses the election on Nov. 12.

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Jack Layton casts his vote in the Toronto municipal election on Nov. 12, 1991. He would go on to lose the election to June Rowlands. (Rick Eglinton/Canadian Press/Toronto Star)

1994: Following a losing campaign in the 1993 federal election for the NDP in the north Toronto riding of Rosedale, Layton runs in the 1994 Toronto municipal election and is elected to council again.

Mid-1990s-2000: Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Layton takes a close interest in the "greening" of Toronto, serving as president of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, chair of the environmental task force, chair of the cycling committee, and vice-chair of Toronto Hydro.

In 1997, he wins re-election to council following another unsuccessful bid for a House of Commons seat. In 1999, he is instrumental in striking a deal with the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative to build a wind turbine along the city's waterfront.

2001: After serving as its vice-president in 2000, Layton is named president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in June, vastly increasing his exposure on the stage of federal politics. During his tenure, he criss-crosses the country, bringing light to numerous issues facing Canada's municipalities and publishes a book on the homelessness crisis in Canadian cities.

2003: Layton wins his bid for the leadership of the federal NDP, winning on the first ballot with 53.3 per cent of the vote at the party's convention in Toronto. He faces some stiff competition from party stalwarts Bill Blaikie, Lorne Nystrom, Joe Comartin and Pierre Ducasse. Since he has yet to win a seat in parliament, Layton appoints Blaikie as the party's parliamentary leader.

2004: At the onset of Layton's first campaign as NDP leader, he makes the bold prediction that the party will win 40 seats. The campaign, however, is not devoid of controversy, after Layton makes comments suggesting Prime Minister Paul Martin is responsible for the deaths of many homeless people by failing to provide them with adequate housing. This off-the-cuff statement ends up overshadowing Layton's campaign and the NDP fails to even come close to his seat prediction, garnering only 19 seats.

2006: After a confidence vote ousts the ruling Liberal minority government, Layton finds himself out on the hustings once again. This time, he has to fight hard to convince voters that the NDP isn't in league with the scandal-ridden Martin Liberals after supporting the party through much of the past two years in the House. Against the wishes of some longtime NDP supporters, including Canadian Autoworkers Union president Buzz Hargrove, Layton urges voters to avoid strategic voting, a practice endorsed by some in the party in order to avoid a Stephen Harper-led Conservative government. Layton's insistence that Canadians have a choice proves successful: the NDP wins 29 seats in the election.

In September, Layton wins a resounding 92 per cent approval rating at the NDP's convention in Quebec City, cementing his role as party leader.

2008: Layton is quite active in Canada's 39th Parliament, passing a motion calling for the country's withdrawal from Afghanistan, pressing the prime minister to amend the Clean Air Act and voting to extend asylum to U.S. soldiers not wanting to fight in Iraq.

The 2008 election campaign is a hard-fought battle, with the NDP gaining eight seats, for a total of 37, only seven seats shy of the record set in 1988, when Ed Broadbent was at the party's helm.

Following the election, Layton begins deliberations with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion on the establishment of a coalition government should the Conservatives fall in a confidence vote. On Dec. 1, an agreement is signed, with support from Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, outlining the tenets of a Liberal-NDP government. Controversially, Premier Stephen Harper manages to convince Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament, thus avoiding the confidence vote.

2010: On Feb. 5, Layton announces he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, as his father had been 17 years earlier. Characteristically, he vows to fight and beat the cancer and does not step down from his duties as MP and NDP leader.

2011: Heading into his fourth federal election in seven years, Layton appears worse for the wear as a hairline fracture in his left hip necessitates the use of a cane. However, as the campaign wears on, Layton lives up to his nickname: Energizer bunny. His popularity skyrockets following the April 12 leaders debate, especially in Quebec, a province long thought to be unconquerable for the NDP. Soon enough, polls indicate a strong second-place showing for Layton, with some pundits speculating the possibility of an NDP minority victory. In the end, Jack Layton manages to lead the NDP to 103 seats in the House of Commons, shattering the party's old record and becoming Canada's Official Opposition in the process.

On July 25, Layton announced he was taking a temporary leave of absence from politics, saying he requires treatment for a new cancer. He names Nycole Turmel as interim party leader.