Jim Judd, president of Utah AFL-CIO, remembered as leader, friend

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 12:54 p.m. MDT

Jim Judd, president of the Utah chapter of the AFL-CIO, is seen in 2011. Judd died Thursday due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

Lee Benson

SALT LAKE CITY — Friends and colleagues are remembering Jim Judd as a “great leader” who labored on behalf of the middle class and working families.

The president of the Utah AFL-CIO died Thursday due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident near Missoula, Mont. 

"He was our beloved leader, who has made a difference in the lives of his co-workers and all workers across Utah," read a statement for the Utah AFL-CIO.

“He cared about working men and women, their safety, their health and their wages,” said Utah AFL-CIO Vice President Dale Cox.

Judd, 60, was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on southbound I-15 Thursday morning when investigators said he drifted out of the left-hand lane into the median. The motorcycle rolled as he attempted to get back onto the roadway, landing in the median.

Judd — who was not wearing a helmet — was ejected and was pronounced brain dead at the hospital. He was participating in the International Association of Fire Fighters motorcycle rally, which was being held in Butte, Mont.

Last year, Judd was elected to his second full term as leader of the state’s largest labor union. Judd had been vice president under Ed Mayne — who died of cancer in November 2007 — and served out the remainder of his term before being elected as president outright.

He had been a union man for more than 30 years, starting out with the Teamsters in the early 1970s in Las Vegas. In 1977, he joined the Ogden Fire Department and the local chapter of the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah. Two years later, he was elected president of Local 1654. He has served as the organization's state president since 1985.

Judd was also vice chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.

In that arena, he was also considered an effective leader “who knew how to get things done,” said Anna Thompson, communications director for the Utah Democratic Party.

“He was not someone who screams and shouts,” she explained. “He quietly got things done in the background. He was a great negotiator (and) a great mentor who taught a lot of people in our party and the labor movement many things about getting things done.”

She said that Judd was a cheerful person with a wry sense of humor, “always with a joke at the ready” and that distinctive mustache.

“We used to have a joke about whose mustache would win “a grudge match” — Jim’s or (Murray Mayor) Dan Snarr’s,” Thompson said with a chuckle.

She said Judd was always a calming influence even during the most stressful times. She added that his knowledge and confident demeanor were invaluable traits that served him well in both of his high-profile positions.

“I always appreciated how calm and capable he was,” she said.

Thompson said Judd’s passing will leave a huge void that will be difficult to fill.

“We’re going to miss his presence, his experience, his leadership,” she said. “(His loss) is a blow.”

Judd is survived by his wife, Jill, six children and 16 grandchildren.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com Twitter: JasenLee1

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