James B. King


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Rockport, MA - James King, passed away unexpectedly at age 84 while working on a granite wall at his home. Jim was a man of many talents, adventures, and years of public service. Born and raised in the Pioneer Valley mill town of Ludlow, Massachusetts. Jim left high school and enlisted to serve in the Korean War. Hoping to cure his fear of heights, he became a paratrooper in the 11th and 187th Airborne, but it didn't cure him. He rarely talked about the war in Korea or French Indochina, but he was proud to serve his country. Jim returned to Ludlow, finished high school and through the Army's GI Bill graduated from American International College in Springfield, where he was elected class president. While in college he began volunteering for Senator John F. Kennedy. In the years that followed, he worked on over 100 political campaigns throughout the country and the world, and he was considered one of the first and best political advance men in the country.
His love of learning and teaching others was lifelong, and this allowed him to immerse himself in a wide variety of professional endeavors. Early in his career, Jim taught seventh grade at Ludlow Junior High and worked in community action programs, including the Commonwealth Service Corps, and as director of the Holyoke Program for the Aging. From 1967 to 1975, he was a special assistant and an advance man to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. He traveled extensively and met with many world leaders, but he never took them, or himself, too seriously. On one occasion, Jim met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. As the conversation developed, Jim's presence and humor morphed Brezhnev's stern demeanor into laughter. Jim made many people laugh-a lot!
Jim worked next as Director of Community Affairs for the MBTA. There he developed a strong understanding of transportation that led to his appointment by President Carter as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a post he held until January 1982. At the NTSB, Jim championed many safety improvements. In one instance, frustrated by inaction, Jim had a train car with a proposed safety device placed at the entry to Capitol Hill. Members of Congress passed it on their way to work and soon after that mandated the safety device nationwide, saving many lives.
In 1991 Jim was named Chief of Staff to Senator John Kerry in Boston. In 1993 President Clinton brought him back to Washington as Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where he used a wheelbarrow to ceremoniously scrap an obsolete 10,000-page personnel manual.
Outside of public service, he held positions as Associate Vice President at Harvard University, Senior Vice President at Northeastern University, and as a Presidential Fellow at Trinity College. Jim was a Fellow of Harvard's Institute of Politics and was a visiting fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.
In "semi" retirement, Jim was a proud member of Northern Ireland's Experts Panel, which made recommendations on how Northern Ireland should be governed consistent with the Good Friday Agreement. His ideas contributed to the creation of a government for Northern Ireland in which unionists and nationalists shared power.
Even when Jim retired, he never slowed down. He was a professional volunteer and loved working with earth and stone. He was a daily communicant of Holy Family Parish, a volunteer for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and a Eucharistic minister who visited local nursing homes. He served as a board member at St. Peter's Club in Gloucester and was appointed to the Town of Rockport Personnel Board.
James is survived by his devoted wife Eleanor (Whitney) of Rockport; his beloved sister Almeda King Ambrulevich of Dover, N.H.; and his five loving children and their families, Edward, wife Deborah, children, James, Andrew, and Caroline of Gloucester; Sean, wife Amy, and son Peter of Newburyport; Kathleen, husband Deiric O'Broin, and daughter Sarah of Dublin, Ireland; Anthony, wife Helen Ryan, sons Aidan and Owen of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Patrick, his wife Esther, sons Noah, Carter, and Hugo of Blessington, Ireland.
As the son of a mill worker who later became a union leader, Jim never lost sight of who he was or where he came from. He died with his work boots on, and that's the way he wanted to go.

We are blessed to have known Jim and welcome you to join us:
Visiting hours will take place at St. Joachim's Church, 56 Broadway, Rockport, on Friday, June 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. Family and friends are cordially invited. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Joachim's Church at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 15. Burial is in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in North Andover, Mass. There will be a pre-Mass collation from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Rockport Community Center, adjacent to St Joachim's. All are invited.
Memorial donations in his memory are welcome. The following are two of his favorites: Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, 70 Pleasant Street, Gloucester, MA 01930; and Day by Day Adult Care, 4R Blackburn Center, Gloucester, MA 01930. Arrangements are by the Greely Funeral Home, 212 Washington St., Gloucester, MA. For more information, or to leave an online condolence, please visit www.greelyfuneralhome.com.
Published on June 12, 2019
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4 posts

arlene and bill
Jun 16, 2019
Eleanor, I was out of state when you sent the email. Back last night...words don't express the regret and sadness i feel. So sorry, Jim will be sorely missed. Glad he did it his way though.
Paul Sheehan Cummaquid Ma.
Jun 12, 2019
I succeeded Jim as EMK advance man In the midst of Bostons anti busing turmoil My first week on staff Jim came back for one night joined Senator Kennedy . two hundred Boston riot police and myself as we fought our way into the Copley Plaza. Where the boss was to address the Law Day Dinner (can t make this stuff up, )
Finally in the hotel after a bruising fifteen minutes on the receiving end of pushing ,shoving obscenities and spittle
Kennedy says " Christ what a nasty crowd they don t care who gets hurt trying to get to me. James B with His Irish grin looks at Kennedy then at me and says I know, that s why I thought of Paul as my replacement..
Thanks a lot, James B.,
... R.I.P.
Paul Sheehan Kennedy Alum.
Read more
Jun 12, 2019
Thank you for always taking the time to stop & chat in the hallway during your visits to the nursing home. I will never forget your smiling face & your kindness! Rest In Peace
Paul Fairneny
Jun 12, 2019
The death of Jimmy B. King is a hurtful loss to me. I knew him from Grace Center, Gloucester, Ma. since last November. I spoke with him quite often, was close. One reason is over lap. I spoke with him about related experiences. I also served with the 187 Airborne, 3/187, 101 Airborne Division. Except at Hill 937, 1967 "Hamburger Hill." I was in Company B, and with Weldon Honeycutt and frank Boccia of the book, Crouching Beast, fame. Another over lap is that I also knew former Senator John Kerry, and served with him when on his patrol boat when he received his Silver Star. I had been a Navy SEAL at the time, and in "Joint Forces." Another over lap in the Journey-of-Life, is the Harvard Conne...ction. I graduated Harvard Medical School, 1967, and Harvard Law School, JSD. So James and I held these things in discussion.The "Gloucester Times," mentioned that James died with his boots on. Glad that he lived a long and happy life. I grieve with you.Read more