IGNACIO, Colo. (AP) — Jimmy R. Newton Jr., chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council, has died after a short illness, the council said Tuesday. He was 36.
Newton served as a Tribal Council member and vice chairman before he was elected chairman in 2012.
Vice Chairman James M. Olguin will act as interim chairman until a special election is held within 60 days.
"Chairman Newton was proud of being one of the youngest tribal members elected to a seat on the Southern Ute Tribal Council and then to the chairman position. And that pride was warranted," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. "He leaves behind a legacy that has inspired generations of young tribal leaders to continue advocating and fighting for tribal rights."
"Chairman Newton will always be remembered as a loving family man who also served his people with great dignity and respect," said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family and with the people of the Southern Ute Tribe."
Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said Newton was a strong voice for the Southern Utes, working on projects including the Pine River Indian Irrigation Project, which supplies water to Southern Ute and outside lands.
Newton is survived by his wife, Flora Murphy, and one daughter.
Funeral arrangements were pending.