Longtime politician, former lieutenant governor, James McGrath dies at 85

Former lieutenant governor of Newfoundland and Labrador and longtime federal politician James McGrath has died in St. John's at the age of 85.

In his early days, McGrath was opposed to Newfoundland joining Canada

Jim McGrath served in Parliament and as Newfoundland and Labrador's lieutenant governor. (CBC)

James McGrath, a former Newfoundland and Labrador lieutenant-governor and longtime politician has died at the age of 85. 

McGrath's family said he died peacefully Tuesday night, surrounded by family at Kenny's Pond retirement home in St. John's. 

He served as lieutenant governor between 1986 and 1991, and was first elected as the PC Member of Parliament for St. John's East in 1957. 

McGrath was defeated in 1963, but was then re-elected in 1968, and went on to serve five more terms. 

He was minister of fisheries in the government of Prime Minister Joe Clark, when fellow Newfoundlander John Crosbie was minister of finance. 

Before his political career, he spent time in the Royal Canadian Air Force, according to the provincial government.

Dwight Ball read a tribute to Jim McGrath in the House of Assembly on Wednesday. (File)

"Mr. McGrath was an exemplary parliamentarian and his body of work over the span of almost 40 years is truly remarkable," Premier Dwight Ball said in a tribute in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

"I hope Mr. McGrath's family can find some solace in the fact that he was a great Newfoundlander and Labradorian who had a significant impact on his province and his country."

Born in Buchans, McGrath volunteered with the Responsible Government League, which opposed Confederation, during the referendum on whether Newfoundland should join Canada in 1948.

According to his online obituary, the day after Confederation, McGrath obtained the last Newfoundland passport ever issued.

In a statement, his family said those events "inspired him to enter public life and to represent the interests of Newfoundland nationally and internationally."

The provincial government will lower flags to half-mast until the day of his funeral, Friday, March 3.

A funeral mass will be held at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John's on Friday at 9:30 a.m.