Officials at the Durham Miners' Association have paid tribute to 'inspirational leader' Davey Hopper.
His death from a heart attack was confirmed yesterday, and tributes have been flooding in.
A statement on the website of the DMA said: "It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of our Secretary, Dave Hopper, who died unexpectedly on Saturday 16 July at 4pm.
"Dave was elected General Secretary of the NUM (Durham Area) in 1985 and led the union through the difficult years in the aftermath of the 1984/85 strike and the final closure of the Durham Coalfield.
"He was an inspirational leader who held firm to his deeply-felt socialist principles.
"Last Saturday Dave presided over the 132nd Durham Miners Gala, the 31st under his leadership – the greatest number of any General Secretary.
"This Gala attracted the largest crowd in 60 years, and this achievement and the Galas to come will be his legacy.
"At this moment our thoughts are with his family and those closest to him."
Details of the funeral will be announced at a later date.