Posted Jun 18, 2008 at 03:27 PM
Updated Jun 18, 2008 at 02:58 PM
He was the reluctant politician.
In 35 years of scribbling, covering the hustings and hanging around pols, I don’t believe I ever a met a man more ill-suited to the demands of retail politics than Bill James, a career federal and state prosecutor, who died earlier this week at 75.
Uncomfortable with the press and about as much of a backslapper as J.D. Salinger, Bill James still managed to serve two terms at Hillsborough State Attorney, before being ousted from office by the very strange, very weird, very eccentric and in the end, very sad, Harry Lee Coe.
That ended James public career as a prosecutor, but it was a career spent bringing down Mafia hitman, corrupt politicians and other assorted bad guys.
I won’t pretend to claim I knew James well, although I covered his office and had nothing but cordial, albeit social awkward dealings with this painfully shy man. So I’ll leave the more complete eulogies to those who knew him far better than me.
There is this though about Bill James, which friend and foe could readily agree. He was a lawyer’s lawyer, a prosecutor’s prosecutor.
More pointedly, he is the poster child for why somebody should want to go to law school.
All too often bright, intelligent, ambitious young people pursue the law for all the wrong reasons, usually having more to do with billable hours, rather than justice.
Bill James loved the law. He pursued his career as a prosecutor in order to serve the cause of justice, to do right wrongs, to honor the Constitution.
That’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind. And being true to his understated nature, chances are Bill James would be embarrassed by the all generous words.
But the truth is solid defense in this case.
Posted by judy Hoyer, tampa on 06/19 at 09:43 PM
He was a good and decent man who affected so many engaged in government service. He trained many of the people who are engaged in the criminal justice system yet today and taught them, above all, to do the right thing. If you didn’t know what that was, he would let you know - and leave no doubt. We are so glad that he got to enjoy his retirement - and enjoy it he did - with grandchildren, hiking and skiing - alongside the love of his life, Gloria.
Posted by pacfandave, St Petersburg on 06/19 at 05:02 PM
A pity that for every Bill James there is a Mike Nifong.
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