ST. LOUIS — James Buford, former president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis has passed away.

The Urban League posted the news to Twitter Friday morning.

"Our deepest sympathy and prayers go out to his wife Mrs. Susan Buford and family," the Urban League said.

Buford served as president of the Urban League for 28 years and led St. Louis to become the number one affiliate of the National Urban League.

“He was undeniably a champion for the people,” said Michael McMillan, the current President of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

“Jim was an iconic figure in St. Louis who really transformed the Urban League into the number one affiliate in the country out of almost 100 affiliates in the Urban League movement across America," McMillan said.

He served several organizations in St. Louis including Grand Center, Boy Scouts of America, Fair St. Louis, Heat Up St. Louis and more.

“Jim was a good friend and neighbor. He had humor, charm, but he had a commitment and a twinkle in his eye that he wanted to make a difference for the Urban League, “ said Heat Up St. Louis founder Gentry Trotter.

Trotter sat on the Urban League’s executive board that selected Buford as its former president.

Trotter is just one of many now mourning the highly-respected “champion for the people.”

“Jim’s legacy would be that he never gave up. He always saw the good in people and he always worked that good to benefit our community,” said Trotter.

Buford was known as a distinguished civil rights activist, according to Mayor Lyda Krewson. She said he is remembered as a strong leader of change in the St. Louis community.

In 1999, he was arrested for helping to shut down Highway 70 to provide opportunities for minority contractors, according to the Urban League.

“We will miss Jim, his warm smile, & seeing his distinguished bowties,” Krewson said on Twitter.

James Buford is survived by his two adult sons and his wife, Susan.

As of now, we do not know how he died.

Statement from Michael P. McMillan, Urban League president and CEO 

"Jim Buford was a giant in the St. Louis Community that served with distinction and honor in countless roles impacting countless people. I met Mr. Buford when I was a teenager thirty-two years ago and watched him work hard to create the legacy that he did. The Urban League Movement has lost another champion of justice."

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