PARKERSBURG - Local residents, along with state and national officials, remembered former West Virginia Gov. Hulett Smith as a man of integrity.
Smith, 93, passed away Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Smith, a native of Beckley, was the state's 27th governor from 1965 until 1969.
Frances Ball of Parkersburg, who was a member of the Wood County Democratic Women and the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women, said Smith was highly respected and "a wonderful man."
In this 1965 photo, former W.Va. Gov. Hulett Smith speaks. Smith, who signed bills in the 1960s that abolished the state's death penalty and implemented its first strip mining laws, died Sunday in Arizona, where he had moved to an assisted living facility last fall. He was 93. (File Photo)
''He really worked hard for the people of the state,'' she said. ''I thought he was someone we could all be proud of.''
Smith was known as the governor who signed the laws in the 1960s that did away with the state's death penalty and enacted its first strip mining laws. He enacted measures to control air and water pollution and to protect human rights.
Later in life, he became an environmental advocate.
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., remembered Smith as a good friend and his dedication to the people of West Virginia.
"Like all West Virginians, I was saddened to learn that Governor Smith had died,'' Rockefeller said. ''He was a great and trusted friend, and someone I deeply admired.
''A distinguished World War II veteran, Governor Smith was a staunch advocate for the less fortunate. He worked tirelessly on behalf of all West Virginians and he was very kind and open to me when I first arrived in Emmons in 1964. Sharon and I are keeping Governor Hulett's family in our thoughts and prayers today and in the days to come."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin praised Smith's work in office.
"West Virginia is in mourning for one of our native sons who became a champion for better state government during some of the most turbulent times in America's history," Tomblin said. "Gov. Smith enabled our state to take monumental steps forward during his time in office.
''Today, we remember the progress made under his leadership, and the man who led the way. Joanne and I send our heartfelt sympathies to his family."
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the death impacted her family. Capito's father was former Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr., who succeeded Smith in office.
''My parents and I mourn the loss of former Governor Hulett Smith,'' Capito said. ''He was a true leader and a kind gentleman who left a positive mark on our state.
''When my father was elected governor, Hulett and Mary Alice were gracious and helpful during the transition, and they remained lifelong friends. We will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers.''
State Auditor Glen Gainer III, who resides in Parkersburg, said Smith was someone who always remained active in state politics, even after leaving office. Gainer said Smith was a regular fixture at many State of the State addresses and other state functions over the years.
''What I remember most of him was he was quite a gentleman,'' Gainer said. ''He was always there for his fellow West Virginians.''
Gainer said he spent a lot of time with Smith just talking.
''He was a great source of historical knowledge,'' Gainer said.
Smith called him once to encourage him when Gainer was being heavily critized in the media.
''He was just a phenomenal man,'' Gainer said.
Smith was predeceased by his wives, former first lady Mary Alice Tieche, who died in 1987, and Nancy Pat Lewis, who passed away in 2009, and his sons Hulett Jr. and Mark. He is survived by his children Carolyn H. Sheets and husband, George, of Columbus, Ohio, Alice Christine Merritt of Atlanta, Ga., Suzaine Smith of Boulder, Colo., and Paul Smith and wife, Patti, of Beckley. In addition, he is survived by 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete and are being handled by Melton Mortuary in Beckley.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)