An Australia academic says Bougainville's John Momis will be remembered for his ability to draw people together.
In February the Bougainville parliament voted down an attempt to change the Constitution to allow a president to contest a third term.
Last week Mr Momis was denied the chance to continue as president after being in the role for two terms when the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court rejected his claim his constitutional rights were being infringed.
Although he had been president since 2010 his political career began 50 years ago.
Emeritus professor Ted Wolfers taught the young John Momis and then worked with him, writing the PNG Constitution in the early 1970s.
He said part of his longevity was down to Mr Momis being one of those that people turn to at critical moments.
"He hasn't been a pro-active numbers man or anything but someone who stood for principles that often had a wider appeal and of course at times he paid a very heavy price for that.
"It's worth remembering that he was kidnapped in the late nineties and held captive for a couple of weeks, by people who didn't agree with him."
Mr Wolfers said Mr Momis must be credited with having brought Bougainvilleans together for last year's referendum vote, which saw almost every person voting for independence from PNG.