He left his job after tangling with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker over monetary policy, but his criticisms led to greater independence from government for the Bank of Canada.
James Elliott Coyne, a former governor of the Bank of Canada, died in Winnipeg on Friday. He was 102.
"He was a good example for all of us -- right to the end, he was still alert and keeping himself active," Patrick Riley, a local lawyer and his son, said on Saturday.
"He was always a man of the highest principle. He set that kind of example. He was willing to stand on principle."
Another son, Sandy Riley, CEO of the Richardson Financial Group, said his father "was a wonderful role model for us and a great mentor.
"He had a great life. To be 102 and living at home with your wife and be making breakfast and playing bridge, he was extraordinarily lucky."
Coyne was honoured by the province in July with the Order of Manitoba.
Coyne was born in Winnipeg to James Bowes Coyne, a Manitoba Court of Appeal justice, and mother Edna in 1910.
Coyne graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts in 1931 and went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving his bachelor of arts in jurisprudence and bachelor of civil law in 1934, the Bank of Canada website says.
Patrick Riley said his father practiced as a lawyer before joining the Bank of Canada in 1938. Coyne left that job the next year to join the Central Mortgage Bank, before also working with the Foreign Exchange Control Board, the Canadian Embassy in Washington and the Wartime Prices and Trade Board.
Coyne also served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1944.
Coyne rejoined the Bank of Canada and rose through the ranks to become deputy governor from 1950 to 1954, when he was appointed the bank's second governor and president of the Industrial Development Bank on Jan. 1, 1955.
Coyne resigned at the end of what's become known as either the Coyne Affair or the Coyne Crisis. Coyne made repeated speeches criticizing the Diefenbaker government's fiscal policies -- it was borrowing massive amounts of money to stimulate the economy -- and he rejected lowering interest rates.
The government voted to terminate Coyne from his position, but the Liberal-dominated Senate rejected the bill.
Coyne resigned anyway the next day, July 13, 1961.
Otto Lang, a Liberal federal cabinet minister in the 1970s whose portfolios included justice, said that's how Coyne will best be remembered.
"He took a stand on the need for independence of the bank and for it not to be pushed around by government politics of the day," Lang said.
"It was a really significant contribution, and now every sensible country that has a solid way of doing things does it that way.
"It took leaders like him for others to follow."
Patrick Riley said Coyne married his mother after his father, Robert Sanford Riley, died of cancer.
"I remember meeting him (Coyne) when I was five," he said.
"He brought chocolate gold coins. As usual, it was a kind and wise gesture."
Coyne is survived by his wife of 55 years, Meribeth, his sons, Patrick Riley, Sandy Riley and Andrew Coyne, a National Post columnist, two daughters, Nancy Riley and Susan Coyne, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life is still in the planning stages.