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January 11, 2001

OBITUARY: Joseph A. James

Public and International Affairs professor emeritus Joseph A. James died Dec. 23, 2000, of cancer. He was 77.

He served on the faculty of GSPIA for more than 25 years, retiring in 1984.

James helped to develop courses in financial administration and municipal management at GSPIA. He taught courses in fiscal management, intergovernmental relations, revenue administration and fiscal policy. He was selected the school's teacher of the year in 1977 and 1981.

A former student of James's, GSPIA associate professor Kevin Kearns, who is on a leave of absence from the school to head the William J. Copeland Fund and Elmer J. Tropman Nonprofit Management Institute, said, "Joe was a wonderful man. He had a rough exterior, but underneath was a heart of gold and the sentiment of a teddy-bear. He was an astounding teacher. Probably the best I had in my whole formal education."

Early in his career, James served as an assistant municipal manager in Mt. Lebanon, and his later academic work reflected his interest in blending academic theory with practical tools for effective government administration. He authored or contributed to many publications dealing with local government administration, urban fiscal policy, intergovernmental relations and administrative codes.

James served on many government study commissions dealing with issues such as cooperative purchasing, governmental consolidation, taxation and urban fiscal problems.

He chaired the Allegheny County Government Study Commission in 1973-1974, an early effort to develop a home rule charter for Allegheny County.

James was a member of the Task Force on Municipal Fiscal Distress and Bankruptcy of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and is widely credited with the design of legislation that mandates technical and managerial assistance to municipalities in danger of financial collapse.

In 1994 James received the Public Service Award from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.

Doug Watkins, township manager in Upper St. Clair, said: "Joe James was many things to those of us who work in government — professor, mentor, colleague and good friend. Joe seemed to feel a special kinship with the community of government professionals. I marveled at how Joe remained up to date on changes in the law and other factors affecting the profession."

Watkins and James were collaborating with others on a financial management manual for municipal officials.

James served in the U.S. Army in World War II before earning bachelor's and master's degrees in political science at Penn State. He earned a Ph.D. from Pitt.

James is survived by his wife, Shirley; stepchildren Diane Gerald of Springfield, Va., and Daniel Marra III of Conyers, Ga.; a sister, Alice Jorgensen, of the North Hills, and six grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Family Hospice, 250 Mt. Lebanon Blvd., Pittsburgh 15234, or to Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington St., Montgomery, Ala. 36104.n

Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 9

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