Lives of the fellows

John Lewis James

b.16 November 1919 d.4 December 1993
BSc Bristol(1951) MRCS LRCP(1954) MB ChB(1954) MRCP(1960) MD(1965) FRCP Edin(1971) FRCP(1977)

John James was born in Bristol, the son of a master grocer, Gwillym Lewis James, and educated at Cotham Grammar School and Bristol University, where he studied medicine. He held house jobs at Bristol Royal Infirmary prior to continuing his medical education as a registrar at, successively, Bristol, Bath, Oxford and Leeds. In 1955 he married Joan Luton, daughter of a master baker, and their marriage was an exceptionally close one. They had six children.

In 1966 he was appointed a consultant physician to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. His analytical and incisive mind cut him out to be a neurologist and at Hudddersfield he built up the department of neurophysiology. He was a good doctor; a champion of and guardian to his patients, and a guide and inspiration to his colleagues. He was honest and loyal to all his associates, holding them in respect and affection in the tradition of his Christian ethic. His lectures were examples of excellence, erudite in content and poetic in eloquence. At the bedside he taught that deduction and theory had to be balanced by pragmatism and collective empirical experience. He always insisted that the wishes and dignity of each patient must be paramount.

Early in his tenure, John was responsible for postgraduate medical education in Huddersfield. He was personally involved with the building of the new complex and medical education was an interest which remained close to his heart. Later, when his administrative skill had been recognized, his services were required in management and he accepted this additional work both as a duty and a privilege. Although he was not prepared to compromise over the truth as he saw it, he was equally determined not to let the ship sink.

John James was a committed Christian, unswerving in his faith and devotion. He had both respect and consideration for people of other faiths, or other interpretations of Christianity, but his dedication to the Baptist vision of Christ was absolute. He bore illness with courage and never doubted the generous goodwill of God. He was also equally enthusiastic over the ability and commitment of his doctors; there were days of despair but never any word of criticism.

John had many faces, sometimes grim with purpose but just as capable of a mischievous warmth and guileless wit. He was entertaining and eloquent both in the lecture theatre and on social occasions. He loved choral singing and played bowls at his local club. Yet he was a very private man and a shy man; reserved on first acquaintance but not taciturn or uncommunicative. Those who did not know him well may not have realized the warmth of his nature. Behind his reserve there was gregarious man, always willing to help. Being indeed an honourable man what he did, he did with a wish for the common good.

E T Hunt

(Volume X, page 256)

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