James Douglas McDonald died at home from pneumonia Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Venice, Fla., at the age of 81. His wife and partner, Kathleen Glah McDonald, was with him.
Jim was born in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 2, 1932, to Mac and Glad McDonald and lived there until moving to Ithaca, N.Y., following his graduation with honors from St. Ignatius High School. He graduated with honors from Cornell University with a bachelor of arts in economics and political science in 1954.
While at Cornell, he was a member of the Cornell Crew, Quill & Dagger, Army ROTC and Phi Psi fraternity. He served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956 and attained the rank of captain. He returned to Cornell Law School and received his doctor of jurisprudence with honors in 1958.
Jim’s first job following law school was as an associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, America’s oldest law firm, on Wall Street in Manhattan, N.Y. During his time there he received a master of laws in international antitrust law from New York University and thus began his love affair with international travel.
In 1967, Jim joined the legal department of American Cyanamid Co., an international biotechnological, agricultural and pharmaceutical corporation.
He was manager of Cyanamid’s legal department from 1978 to 1994, where he was responsible for all general legal matters on a worldwide basis; directed all major litigation; oversaw regulatory compliance; directed all acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures and divestitures worldwide; and specialized in international and United States antitrust matters, environmental and other litigation and arbitration.
Jim was an arbitrator for complex commercial arbitrations with the American Arbitration Association and with the London Board of Commercial Arbitration from 1969 until his death.
After retiring from Cyanamid in 1994, Jim was a volunteer lawyer for the U.S. Agency for International Development/VOCA in the Czech Republic and Uganda. He was a legal consultant for the International Executive Service Corps.
He was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as a director of the board of The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where he served from 1994 to 2003 as chairman of the Legal Committee and rewrote the Center’s bylaws.
Jim and Kathleen moved to Venice, Fla., in 1997. They learned to sail and kayak and joined the Sarasota Scullers, rowing three mornings each week on Sarasota Bay.
He became a member of The Florida Bar in 1998 and worked as volunteer legal counsel for various national and local nonprofit organizations, including The National League of American Pen Women in Washington, D.C., Art Center Sarasota, Women Contemporary Artists and the Sarasota Museum of Art.
He spent two years as a consultant with Morris & Widman in Venice, Fla. He then worked for 11 years as a full-time volunteer lawyer at Gulfcoast Legal Services in Sarasota, Fla.
In 2010, he and Gulfcoast’s managing lawyer, Elizabeth M. Boyle, received the Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence in Legal Aid Impact granted by the Florida Bar Foundation. In 2011 he was a recipient of the 50 Year Continuous Legal Practice Award granted by The Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court.
In 2013, he received the Florida Bar Association’s Pro Bono Award for giving more than 12,000 hours of legal service to Sarasota and Manatee Counties’ poor and elderly. In July 2013, he formed the law firm of McDonald & Boyle with his friend and colleague, Elizabeth M. Boyle, and continued to work for their poor and elder clients until his death.
Jim was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, Court of Claims of the United States, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Jim traveled worldwide to 148 countries for work and for personal growth.
He was fond of planning three-month-long adventures to remote areas of Africa, Asia and South America with just his wife, her sketch book and a local guide.
Their most recent trip was a two-month road trip in August and September in a rental car through Scotland and the Hebrides to find his Clan Donald heritage, and around Brittany and Normandy in search of local wines and cuisine.
His avocation for medieval history, archaeology and anthropology blended well with Kathleen’s profession as a potter and landscape painter. Together they visited castles, cathedrals, archaeological sites and walled cities throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia and aboriginal tribes and cultures in such places as Borneo, Tibet, Mongolia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Madagascar and Southwestern Africa.
Jim was brilliant, funny, generous, kind, compassionate, courteous and a real gentleman. And he loved to waltz!
He freely gave legal advice to anyone who asked, from his barber to his landscaper, neighbors, family and friends.
On learning of Jim’s death, a close friend and colleague said about Jim, “I’ve had a lot of bosses but Jim was a blessing. He was moral and had the highest principals of integrity.”
A lifelong Roman Catholic and a man of strong faith, Jim was a member of Epiphany Cathedral Parish in Venice, Fla. He was also a member of the American Bar Association, The Florida Bar, the Sarasota County Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Selden Society, the NAACP, American Society for Legal History, Civil War Preservation Trust, Sarasota County Civic League, Cornell Club of Sarasota and Pelican Pointe Golf & Country Club. He is listed in Who’s Who in American Law.
He was a donor to his schools, and to charities focused on relieving poverty and food scarcity and promoting human rights. He marched for Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War; advocated against apartheid in South Africa as an active member of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; served on the street legal team during protests in Washington against the war in Iraq in 2003 and 2004; and actively supported gender and marriage equality.
He was a passionate believer in progressive politics and human rights, which was evident in the way he lived his life and in the racially diverse children he gathered into his heart and home.
Survivors include his wife of 27 years, Kathleen; children, Mark, Julia, Maria, Alexandra, Amara, Greg, Timothy, John, Annie, Brenda and Marco (deceased); his brother, David, and sister, Jean Rousseau; eight grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews, in-laws and friends.
Services: A Mass of Celebration will be held at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 W. Tampa Ave., Venice, Fla., Thursday, June 19, at 11 a.m., followed by a reception at Pelican Pointe.