Born:  February 24,1917
South Pasadena, California

Died:  November 23, 2015
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Summary by
Mary DeRosa

Interviews Conducted by
Mary B. DeRosa, Esq.

James C. McKay, Esq.

Oral History Text & Documentation

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Oral History Summary


Jim McKay was born in South Pasadena, California. Except for the periods when he was in college and in the United States Navy, he has been a resident of the District of Columbia metropolitan area. He is a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling.

He attended several grammar schools in Washington, D.C., and also attended Gordon Junior High School and Western High School in that city. He graduated from the Agriculture College at Cornell University in 1938 with a BS degree. After working for several years in various agricultural jobs, including that of Assistant Marketing Specialist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, he sewed for four years as a resewe officer on active duty with the United States Navy during World War II.

His service included sea duty in the Atlantic as executive officer of two submarine chasers. From June of 1944 until the end of World War II he was the commanding officer of a 175-foot patrol craft, the USS PC 1596, operating in the Mediterranean theatre. He resigned his commission after attaining the rank of lieutenant commander.

While employed as a law clerk by the Covington firm, Jim attended night classes at the Georgetown University Law Center, receiving an LLB in 1947. He received an honorary LLD from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1989. He was an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia in the late 1940s. As an independent counsel from 1987 to 1990, he conducted the investigations of Lyn Nofziger, a senior advisor to President Reagan, and Edwin Meese, the Attorney General of the United States during the Reagan administration.

For most of his legal career, Jim has been a trial lawyer at Covington & Burling, first as an associate and later as a partner in that firm. He participated in many trials and appellate oral arguments, involving civil and criminal cases, in a number of jurisdictions in the United States. For the past eight years, he has represented veterans on a pro bono basis before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

He also has represented parties in adoption, child abuse and neglect, and custody proceedings in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. For a period of one year in 2001 and 2002, he was a special government employee of the U.S. Department of Justice, serving as a Legal Advisor with the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office.

Jim was Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of the voluntary Bar Association of the District of Columbia, as well as a member of numerous committees of that Association. More recently, he served for six years as a member of the Board On Professional Responsibility of the D.C. Bar. Prior to that, he served as Chair of a Hearing Committee of the Board.

He has sewed since the early 1970s as a court-appointed trustee of the George Preston Marshall Trust, and as president of the George Preston Marshall Foundation, a charitable organization which, over the years, has made many millions of dollars of grants to organizations concerned with the health, education and welfare of children in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Jim resides with his wife, Mary Anne McKay, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. They have three grown children and three grandchildren.

Courtesy of the McKay Family