LINVILLE, N.C. - Friends and family mourn the loss of James McKay Morton, 65, chairman of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation board of directors. Morton passed away on Saturday. 

On top of helping start the non-profit foundation to preserve Grandfather Mountain, Morton was a known conservationist, trailblazer and photographer. Representatives with the foundation say Morton's dedication to the mountain was similar to that of his father, the late Hugh Morton, who established the park as one of North Carolina's top travel attractions in 1952. 

Jim Morton continued to protect the mountain from future development. In September 2008, when the Morton family announced its plan to sell the undeveloped backcountry of Grandfather Mountain to the state of North Carolina for the establishment of Grandfather Mountain State Park, Jim Morton sought to make the conservation easement more robust than originally written. That meant placing limits on growth of the Nature Museum and environmental wildlife habitats to preserve the "pristine nature of the park's higher elevations." He also helped design trails and run the park.

According to a release, Morton is survived by his mother, Julia Morton of Linville; sister Julia M. Morton of Greensboro, N.C.; sister Catherine Morton of Linville; sister-in-law Pansy Morton of Raleigh, N.C.; nephew Crae Morton of Winston-Salem, N.C.; and nephew Jack Morton of Raleigh. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis, N.C.

A bluegrass-centered celebration of life will be held in early summer at Grandfather Mountain (date TBD).

In lieu of flowers, the Morton family is requesting donations to the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.