Jack Shewmaker, one of Walmart’s leading figures, has passed away.

Shewmaker, who was hired by Sam Walton as a district manager in 1970 and rose to become chief financial officer when he retired in 1988, was one of the US giant’s most powerful employees and described as one of the company’s “greatest warriors”.

Walmart chief executive Mike Duke said: “Jack was an extraordinarily gifted merchant and one of my greatest ongoing development opportunities was to walk stores and clubs with Jack – with him striding ahead and me taking notes as quickly as I could.

“He was a mentor to many of us and one of his greatest pleasures over the past few years was developing young merchants.”

Shewmaker rose to become chief operating officer in 1978, then moved to become vice chairman and chief financial officer. He also remained a member of the Walmart board until 2008.

He was instrumental in developing Walmart’s Every Day Low Pricing strategy, which defined the retailer and Duke said “set new standards in the retail industry for providing customers with consistent, reliable value”.

He was also a “strong advocate of Walmart’s pioneering development of technology” said Duke. He led the retailer’s adoption of barcodes and the launch of its first satellite system, tying together Walmart’s stores, distribution centres and head office.

Duke added: “He loved this company and gave it his heart as well as his considerable talents. He was a dear personal friend and, though the company will benefit from his contributions for years to come, it is hard to imagine Walmart without Jack.

“Our company owes Jack a tremendous debt of gratitude and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”