P.E.I. native James Palmer made his mark in Alberta

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Lawyer Jim Palmer speaks in his office at the Burnet, Duckworth and Palmer firm in this Calgary Herald file photo.

He was a prominent lawyer, loyal Grit and celebrated philanthropist.

James (Jim) Palmer, 84, died Tuesday morning, Aug. 27.

“He was a man for all seasons,” said Harry Campbell, a close friend and former colleague at Calgary law firm Burnet, Duckworth and Palmer. “He was good at law, business and philanthropy.’’

Born in Prince Edward Island, Palmer was a direct descendant from one of the Fathers of Confederation. He came to Calgary in 1952 as a fifth-generation Maritime lawyer where he helped grow the independent firm into a major oilpatch player.

The University of Prince Edward Island extended its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Palmer, who was granted an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1998 from UPEI.

UPEI praised Palmer, who had a summer residence in Keppoch, P.E.I., for providing continuous support to UPEI and Prince Edward Island, a province he “always called home’’.

In Calgary, the powerful Albertan was also remembered for his interest in public service.

“He loved politics, loved the game,” said Dave Bronconnier, the former Calgary mayor and 25-year associate.

Palmer made an unsuccessful bid for federal office in 1979 in Calgary South, but went on to become one of former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin’s closest advisers in the West. He was a formidable fundraiser and served as an adviser to the Finance Department on resource tax policy.

The bow-tied businessman and lawyer spent more than 50 years giving back to the community, supporting organizations such as the Calgary Homeless Foundation, United Way of Calgary, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.

After serving as chancellor at the University of Calgary, he helped raise $40 million as chair of the university’s first major capital campaign from 1990 to 1993.

Palmer and his wife, Barbara, also donated millions of dollars to the U of C to help create the School of Public Policy in 2009.

Economist Jack Mintz called Palmer a “champion in the community,” and recalled how he wanted to see the best and brightest young people pursuing careers in government bureaucracy. He felt governments played a very important role in society and that it was critical to have a strong civil service.”

Palmer also actively supported arts and culture, serving as president of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra from 1981 to 1983.

As a result of his commitments, Palmer was named a Member of the Order of Canada.

Away from work, he was a trout fisherman who enjoyed hiking in Yoho National Park and Lake Louise. Those hobbies were hampered in recent years as he suffered from breathing problems since having a dysfunctional lung removed.

With information from The Guardian

Organizations: University of Prince Edward Island, Finance Department, Calgary Homeless Foundation United Way Salvation Army Habitat for Humanity University of Calgary School of Public Policy Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

Geographic location: Calgary, Prince Edward Island, Alberta Keppoch Calgary South Canada Yoho National Park Lake Louise

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