Born: September 19, 1935
Parris Island, South Carolina

Died: June 16, 2023
Cary, North Carolina

Summary by
William F. Marmon

Interviews Conducted by
Steven P. Hollman, Esq.

James F. Davey, Esq.

Oral History Text & Documentation

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Oral History Summary


Jim, the son of a naval officer, was born on Parris Island on September 19, 1935. Six years later Jim’s father was the Public Works Officer on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Jim’s house was located just two battleship lengths away from Battleship Row; thus, Jim and his family became eyewitnesses to history when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

In 1942 Jim’s father was transferred to Rhode Island. Jim spent his remaining childhood in Rhode Island attending public schools including the University of Rhode Island from which he graduated in 1958 with a BS degree in Accounting. Upon graduation he took a job with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an internal auditor. While working for USDA Jim attended the Georgetown Law Center where he graduated from its evening division in 1965 with a Juris Doctor degree.

In 1966 and 1967 Jim was assigned to the USDA’s Overseas Audit Branch and became the Supervisory Auditor-in-Charge of the Branch in 1967. Jim participated and/or supervised audits in Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Kenya, Israel, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In 1968 Jim joined a small group that conducted a management review of the DC Court System that was requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee and funded primarily by the Ford Foundation. The study resulted in major recommendations for reorganizing the courts in the District of Columbia as well as major recommendations for changes in the courts’ policies and procedures particularly those relating to case management.

At the conclusion of the study the US District Court for the District of Columbia hired Jim in 1969 as the Chief Deputy Clerk of the Clerk’s Office with a mandate to begin implementing many of the study recommendations. In 1970 when the Clerk retired the Court appointed Jim as Clerk. Jim served as Clerk until he retired in 1991.

During Jim’s tenure the Clerk’s Office provided major assistance to the Court as it converted from a master to an individual calendar system. The Clerk’s Office also was of major assistance to the Court in a number of highly publicized cases including the Watergate, Pentagon Papers, AT&T, John Hinckley, and Oliver North cases. His Office was also a leader in computerizing not only the Clerk’s Office but also Judges’ courtrooms and chambers.

Additionally, the Clerk’s Office became noted for its utilization of modern management techniques and its employee centered programs that rewarded outstanding performance, gave cash for suggestions that led to improvements and allowed employees very flexible work schedules. The Office’s Career Development Program produced many capable supervisors and managers several of whom became Clerks of other Courts and one of whom, Nancy Mayer-Whittington, was appointed Clerk to succeed Jim when he retired. She became the first female and first non-lawyer to become Clerk since the Court was founded in 1801.

Courtesy of the Davey Family