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Jim McCord, professor emeritus of British history at the College of William & Mary, is being remembered by community leaders as a generous neighbor who was dedicated to the well-being of the city.
McCord, who had been diagnosed in the last 10 years with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s disease, died June 16. He was 78.
He taught at William & Mary from 1965 until his retirement in 2005, when he received the Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest honor for faculty who serve the college community through their personal activities, influence and leadership.
At the college McCord served as chair of the Lyon Gardiner Tyler Department of History, faculty marshal of the Alpha Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society and was one of the founders of the Town and Gown luncheon and speaker series.
In a statement, William & Mary Provost Michael Halleran noted McCord’s contributions to the college but also the generosity and kindness he showed his colleagues, whether it was an invitation to watch the Williamsburg Christmas Parade from his front yard, the Easter Egg hunts he organized for children or his enthusiasm on the tennis court.
“Professor McCord’s good-natured, imperturbable, and selfless approach to work and to life has left a powerful stamp on all who had the privilege and honor of knowing him,” Halleran wrote.
McCord’s involvement wasn’t limited to the college. He served on the Williamsburg City Council from 1976 to 1984.
“Jim was a wonderful contributor to our community and his gentle hand, his kindness, and his concern for all members of the community will be missed” said Mayor Clyde Haulman in a statement.
Jeanne Zeidler, a former mayor, recalled McCord as a “beloved long-time member of the Williamsburg community and a popular member of City Council.”
“As a City Council member he was an advocate for citizen participation, vibrant neighborhoods, programs and services that maintained the City’s great quality of life, and warm town-gown relations,” she said in a statement. “Throughout their many decades in Williamsburg Jim and [his wife] Gail’s home was always open to others for hospitality, friendship, comfort and support, or to promote good causes.”
McCord is also credited with bringing First Night to Williamsburg. The annual celebration is an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve event for families and students.
Bobby Braxton, president of the board of directors for First Night, called McCord the “genesis” for First Night in Williamsburg. The event has been a “stepping stone” for entertainers looking to play for large audiences and has given residents a chance to explore areas of the college campus they may not normally visit, such as the Sadler Center.
“He was a very dedicated fellow,” Braxton said. “He was a very likeable guy. I’ll miss him.”
Upon learning he had received the Jefferson Award in 2005, McCord said he was “honored,” “surprised” and “humbled,” according to a profile by David Williard. “True to form, however,” Williard notes, “he mostly seemed embarrassed.”
“Service you do not do alone,” McCord had said. “You work with a lot of other people. To be given credit for achievement is narrow. My colleagues, the alumni, the staff and the people of Williamsburg all have played a role in what we were able to achieve.”