Garde Gardom was 88 when he passed away in Vancouver on Tuesday.
He was a member of the legislative assembly, cabinet minister and provincial representative to London and Europe.
The provincial government has announced flags on its buildings will fly at half-mast until the funeral service, which has yet to be announced.
"Garde Gardom led a life all British Columbians can be proud of and want to aspire to," Premier Christy Clark said in a statement. "He embraced life, challenges and opportunity with equal gusto."
NDP Leader Adrian Dix called Gardom one of the province's most revered and important public figures.
"Admired for his intelligence and integrity by people across the province and political spectrum, Gardom's record of public service is long and impressive," he said in a statement.
Gardom was sworn in as the Queen's representative to British Columbia on April 21, 1995 and held the job until September 2001. While lieutenant governor, he also served as the honorary colonel of the British Columbia Regiment.
Before being appointed lieutenant governor, he worked in London as the province's agent-general in the United Kingdom and Europe, holding the post between 1987 and 1992.
Gardom's longest job, though, was as a member of the legislative assembly, where he represented the Liberal and then Social Credit parties six times, starting in 1966. In the process, Gardom became B.C.'s longest-serving government house leader.
He also served as attorney general and the province's first minister of intergovernmental relations while sitting on several legislative committees and boards.
As an MLA, Gardom launched the CounterAttack program to target drunk drivers, helped promote a peaceful resolution to the Doukhobor issues and represented the province in constitutional negotiations preceding patriation in 1982.
During an address to the legislature in October 1972, Gardom displayed the ability to see beyond party lines.
"I think that although we'll find within this house people with very dissimilar ideology and very different philosophies, I think you'll find one thing very, very consistent," he said. "That every individual in this house is attempting to do his level best for the people of British Columbia.
"Secondly, do whatever you can to retain your sense of humour because sometimes it may be the last thing that you'll have to rest upon."
Gardom was born in Banff, Alta., on July 17, 1924 and then moved to the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.
After attending high school in Vancouver, he went to the University of British Columbia where he earned a law degree.
He worked as a lawyer before entering politics.
Gardom married Helen Mackenzie in 1956 and leaves behind five children and 11 grandchildren.
"For 45 years, his family shared Garde with us and British Columbia is a richer place because of that," Clark in a statement. "We remain in their debt. Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
-- by Keven Drews in Vancouver
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