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Historian and author Dave Walter, who helped shape Montana’s future by recounting its past, passed away Wednesday night after suffering a heart attack earlier this week.

News of Walter’s passing spread quickly throughout the city — spread by those who admired the scholar for his knowledge of and dedication to Montana’s colorful history.

“He was unmatched in his ability to bring Montana’s history alive for literally thousands of people,” said Carroll College history professor Robert Swartout. “His intellectual talents were only surpassed by his unwavering kindness and genuine humility.”

Walter, a research historian with the Montana Historical Society, graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He spent a decade working with K. Ross Toole at the University of Montana, where he received an honorary doctorate.

In 1979, Walter began working at the Historical Society as a research librarian. His name became commonplace after he published his popular series “Jerks in Montana History: Speaking Ill of the Dead.”

But no one’s speaking ill of Walter who, as an author, refused to tolerate the rough and tumble characters in Montana’s past who took advantage of and mistreated the common-folk and the downtrodden.

“I had the honor of learning from Dave and watching him over the years as he worked with everyone, from young students to well-known authors and historians,” said friend Tom Cook, who said Walter treated everyone he met with fairness and respect, regardless of their social stand-ing.

Read the full story in Friday’s Independent Record.

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