James Leahy, Class of 1949
Attorney and law professor James Edward Leahy died at 9:15 am November 21, 2011. His 92 years on this earth, started humbly in Bristol, SD on October 31, 1919. After serving in the CCC's, he began his career in Fargo, ND by attending the Fargo Business College where he met his future bride, Jean Collins.
He leapt at the opportunity to take a job at the Government Printing Office in Washington, DC just prior to World War II. It was here, that he gained his appreciation for government, politics and the law. After serving dutifully as a Quartermaster in the Navy during WWII, James used the GI Bill to attend the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks to obtain his first Law Degree.
With his wife, Jean, first son Jay and second son Jerry, he moved back to Fargo in 1949 to join the Cupler Law Firm. After seven successful years practicing law, and after adding a third son Jeffrey and a daughter Janis to his family, James joined the Trust Department of Merchant's National Bank in Fargo. His support of the Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus and Sons of Norway (even though he was half Irish and half Polish with not a drop of Norwegian blood), secured his reputation as a caring, generous citizen of Fargo, dedicated to helping his fellow man. From his early years in South Dakota, he learned from his mother no matter how much you have or don't have in life, there is always someone else who can use a helping hand. This was a legacy that he passed to all his children.
In the early sixties, as his career and position in Fargo was established, James began to realize that his true passion in life was teaching. From this passion, he began a search of Law schools in the country that would offer him the opportunity to pursue his dream. In 1964, he moved his family and dreams to San Diego, CA to join the faculty of California Western University Law School. For the next 25 years, he used his compassion, dedication and enthusiasm to become a beloved and respected Constitutional Law Professor in San Diego.
Sadly, James lost his bride Jean suddenly in 1980. It was a devastating blow. However, God blessed this man with another companion in 1987 when he married Laverne Femrite, a long-time friend and acquaintance from his banking days in Fargo. He and Laverne moved back to Fargo in 1990 after James retired from teaching.
In Fargo, James began a new career as author. Between 1991 and 2003, he published 5 books and several articles. He also founded the James E. Leahy Freedom Lecture Series at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. After Lavern's passing in 2005, he moved back to San Diego to live out his remaining years surrounded by his loving family. In 2007, James was awarded the Liberty Bell Award by the State Bar Association of North Dakota for his many years of service to the cause of Liberty.
James Edward Leahy is survived by his four children, Jay, Jerry, Jeffrey and Janis as well as his 7 grand-children and 5 great grand-children. He will be an inspiration and loving memory for all of us.
Our mother and father were dedicated supporters of the Saint Vincent de Paul Village in San Diego. The family suggests donations in their name in place of flowers.