He was born in Dundee and spent all his life in the city. After attending Harris Academy, he gained a modern languages degree at Queen's College, Dundee (now Dundee University), before taking up a teaching post at Stobswell Boys' Junior Secondary in the city. He was appointed headteacher of Dundee's Fintry Primary, a school with a roll in excess of 1,000 pupils, in 1969.
In his teens, his principal sport was rugby; he attended trials at district level. He also enjoyed golf and bridge.
During his early years in teaching, he was an active member of the Educational Institute of Scotland and was later awarded a fellowship of that body. Former EIS colleagues pay tribute to his advocacy work on behalf of teachers, both as an EIS representative and as a member of the education committee of Dundee Corporation, before Tayside Regional Council came into being.
Tom Devaney, a former national EIS president who worked with Jim Smith in Dundee, recalls him saying he had always had leanings towards the law. Certainly it was the advocacy side of his work for the EIS which attracted him, rather than its political activism.
In 1978, he joined the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland (now AHDS) and thereafter rose to become president in 1980-81. After his retirement from Fintry Primary, Jim became the full-time secretary of the association, retiring from this position in 2004.
He was an active member of a number of organisations: a teacher member of the former Corporation of Dundee education committee and a member of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, where he was a committee convener.
Jim was an influential and charismatic presence in the education world, carrying out his duties with a refined, yet genial, informality. His organisational skills were well-known and respected, despite his preference to work "behind the scenes" and avoid the limelight.
He was an enthusiastic president of the AHDS and played a central role in ensuring that the organisation was influential in the corridors of power in Scottish education. He will be remembered well for many things: his ability to analyse situations quickly and accurately; his meticulous administrative skills, accompanied by his beautiful handwritten presentation of materials; and his sharp and quirky intellect.
Above all, his lifetime commitment to strengthening the role and power of headteachers leaves us a valuable legacy which the association continues to build upon to this day. He is survived by his wife, Clare, and three sons.
Peter Clunie, AHDS treasurer.