WILLIAM M. JAMES JR. ’54
Bill James wasn’t at Amherst very long. He transferred to Kansas State in the spring of freshman year in order to compete on the U.S. Olympic equestrian team. It seems that the U.S. Cavalry team, which had represented the United States in previous Olympic Games, had been disbanded. A new, civilian team was being formed at Fort Riley, Kan. Bill made the team, which competed in Helsinki, and won the bronze. Because of Fort Riley’s proximity to Kansas State, Bill was able to stay in college. After the Olympics, Bill wanted to return to Amherst as a sophomore, but the College told him he would have to return as a freshman. Instead, he switched to Washington Univ. (as a second-semester sophomore), in St. Louis, where he had grown up. Bill completed his undergraduate and law degrees there. Bill once observed that Amherst was an important experience in his life, and “much tougher than law school.” He said that Amherst made a “real mistake in getting rid of the core curriculum.”
After his active-duty military service, Bill was an F.B.I. agent for three years before joining the Justice Department to prosecute organized crime figures and racketeers. He was chief assistant U.S. attorney and later head of the Strike Force Office in Tampa, Fla. He also served a term as state attorney after beating the 16-year incumbent in an election in 1984. That office ranked last among state attorneys’ offices in convictions when Bill took over. During his tenure, his office rose to first place; he was re-elected in 1988. Bill once said that he looked forward to going to work every day of his career as a prosecutor. In 1992, Bill was a founder of the Tampa law firm of James, Hoyer and Newcomer, which still bears his name.
Bill and his wife, Gloria, later retired to Steamboat Springs, Colo., where Bill was active as a volunteer in church and the medical center there and was able to do a lot of hiking in the summer and a lot of alpine skiing in the winter. He died from complications of a medical procedure to remove a gall stone. He is survived by Gloria, his wife of almost 54 years; a daughter, Christy; a son, Bruce; and two grandchildren. His other daughter, Barbara, predeceased him.
—Matt Mitchell ’54