Officials in Johnsburg, in the early 1990s, were developing a strategy to save the railroad line that runs through the town.

Willsboro, in Essex County, needed a new sewer system around the same time.

The man that town leaders turned to for help navigating the way through the government bureaucratic process was state Assemblyman James King, a Republican from Ticonderoga.

"He was that kind of hands-on leader," said current Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, who previously served as town supervisor in Willsboro.

King, who represented the Glens Falls region in the Assembly from 1991 until he was appointed a state Court of Claims judge in 1995, died Friday at age 80.

Current and past local government officials said King, who served in the Assembly minority, is remembered more for his leadership style and advocacy than for championing specific legislation.

Former Johnsburg Supervisor William Thomas said King would come to his house to visit and talk about politics.

"He was one of the nicest men I ever met. He just was so easy-going and friendly with everybody," Thomas said.

King was effective in working behind the scenes at the state level on Adirondack Park Agency issues, said Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava.

"Not only that, he was a good friend," Scozzafava said.

I was more familiar with King as a frequent speaker at community events and from his performances as a jazz trombonist than from his stint in politics.

He was a great musician, and he had a great sense of humor.

King had a diverse career before and after serving in the Assembly.

He rose in the U.S. Marine Corps to the rank of brigadier general, serving in the Judge Advocate division.

After retiring from the military, he taught law and held various government legal positions, including assistant state attorney general, Court of Claims judge and general counsel to the state Department of State.

"He did so many things in his life," said state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, who held the local Assembly seat directly after King.

"I went to one of his retirement parties, and I joked that he had retired more times than anyone else I knew," she said.

Little said she just attended a ceremony at Albany Law School in April at which King was honored.

"He was somebody that you always enjoyed talking to," she said.

In recent years, King lived in Loudonville but spent summers in Putnam, at a family camp.

King was a founding board member of Lake Communities of Putnam, a nonprofit organization of lakefront property owners formed in 2002 to advocate on quality-of-life and property tax issues, said Bert Windle, the group's president.

King, he said, was instrumental in helping with the legal aspects of setting up the organization, and with making connections with state government.

King spoke at the town's bicentennial celebration a few years ago, Windle said.

"All in all, he's just one of those good people that we've lost," Windle said.

Staff writer Maury Thompson may be reached at

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