James W. McCartney
Jim McCartney, died at age 91, on Saturday, the 18th of September 2021, after a full and remarkable life. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas on Black Thursday, the 24th of October 1929, the first day of the stock market crash that introduced the Great Depression.
Growing up in this era gave him a sense of value and appreciation for family and the dollar. His father died in 1933 when Jim was only three years old; and his grandfather's bank and business failed. Jim was raised by his mother, who was a teacher, and by his grandmother. He began work in a grocery store at age ten and never quit working. He delivered the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper Monday evenings and Sundays, getting up at 4:00 a.m. for morning deliveries and starting his afternoon deliveries at 3:30 p.m. right after school. In later life, he viewed that as a serious mistake, but at the time regarded it as work that had to be done. Jim worked at a local grocery store stocking and delivering groceries for $2.00 a day, and at an engraving company for a short time for 40¢ an hour, which he quit to get a higher paying job at 50¢ an hour cleaning bottles and stacking milk at a local dairy. Among other jobs, he delivered telephone directories, ran the mimeograph and addressed water bills in the Fort Worth municipal building, and worked at the post office during Christmas rush. He worked his way through school with jobs in the Texas Senate in Austin during five regular and special sessions, as a bookkeeper in the gas utility that served Austin, and as an intern in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. His work at the Pentagon opened his eyes to politics and human nature, a fascination that lasted throughout his life.
Jim attended The University of Texas, where he was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1952. He loved The University and was proud to be a third-generation graduate, though he always regretted having done what he claimed was the minimum amount of study and effort necessary to get through.
Following graduation, Jim joined the law firm of Vinson & Elkins and maintained an office there until the end of his life. He loved the legal profession and came by it naturally. His father, grandfathers, great grandfather, as well as his uncle, had all been lawyers. His great grandfather, Captain J. C. Terrell partnered in the first law office in Fort Worth in the late 1850s. Jim frequently said that Vinson & Elkins provided him with the best law practice anyone could ever have. He treasured his friendships and truly loved his colleagues and the staff at the firm. He was a member of the firm's executive committee and its successor, the management committee, for many years. His representation of pipelines and oil companies involved him in a great range of cases from the cow-in-the-ditch to multiple millions of dollars and took him to courts across the nation and to Great Britain, India, and South America. He was involved in acquiring pipeline rights-of-way for several clients through eleven states, the result of which was that he made many interesting acquaintances and long-time friends. He claimed the record for the lowest damage award in the firm's history, which was 75¢ for the acquisition of a right-of-way in Liberty County, Texas. The law business also brought him before federal and state regulatory agencies where he was involved in landmark cases involving pipeline construction rules, rates, and regulations.
Jim loved being involved in land and oil and gas litigation, which enabled him to argue multiple cases before the Texas Courts of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court, including landmark cases involving the ownership of lignite at the surface and the interpretation of oil and gas leases. To evaluate the quality of his oral arguments, he coined the "looking at the shoes test." If he had done poorly, his clients would be looking at their shoes after the argument. If he had done well, they would be laughing and slapping him on the back.
He argued two cases before the United States Supreme Court and was lead counsel in another. He prevailed in all three, uniquely with unanimous 9-0 decisions. He argued matters before the United States Court of Appeals in several circuits in New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, St. Louis, and the District of Columbia. All of this, he freely acknowledged, was because of his affiliation with Vinson & Elkins and the mentors he had there.
Jim was a generous man who quietly took care of others. He routinely helped people in need in various legal matters unrelated to oil and gas litigation. In one mishap, however, while trying to change the name of the son of one of his helpers, he accidentally changed his own name (but corrected that promptly). The story lives on in family lore as a lesson in paying attention to detail.
He was a member of several professional associations, including the American College of Trial Lawyers, of which he was most proud. He also served on the Board of The University of Texas Foundation and the Board of Visitors of McDonald Observatory. He endowed a Lectureship at The University of Texas Law School in the name of his great uncle A. W. Terrell and created a Chair in honor of his father- and mother-in-law, Hines and Thelma Baker. He also organized and funded the Catherine Terrell McCartney Foundation to honor his mother and support the many charities that were important to her.
Jim was raised in a Christian Science Sunday School but, after his marriage, joined the Methodist Church where he remained and which he supported until his death.
Jim loved music of all varieties except rap (which he did not regard as music), including symphonic, country, 40's and 50's. He had the uncanny ability to play all sorts of musical instruments well. He played the piano, the guitar, and occasionally, after a few drinks with friends, he would play the trumpet accompanying a favorite Roy Acuff record "Great Speckled Bird." He played the baritone horn in his junior and senior high school bands, as well as one brief stint with the Longhorn Band. He loved playing Sousa marches and listened to them regularly until his death.
He loved tennis and golf and the friends they enabled him to make. He was the winner of junior tennis city championships in Fort Worth at a time when you only had to win two or three matches to win the title. As his family could not afford a country club membership when he was growing up, he claimed that he overreacted by joining multiple clubs, including River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Galveston Country Club, Birnam Wood Golf Club in Montecito, California, Garden of the Gods Club in Colorado Springs, and Eldorado Country Club in Indian Wells, California. He was also a member of Allegro, Commanderie de Bordeaux, the Magna Charta Barons, and the Fort Worth Club.
Jim was smart as a whip and had a great sense of humor. He could find humor in almost anything in life. He appreciated both the silly and the subtle and had an outstanding collection of New Yorker cartoons that reflected his wry and witty perspective.
Jim lived a full, wonderful life. He was the rare person who exceeded his dreams. He personified the best of the American work ethic and the American education system and had the native smarts to seize opportunities when they presented themselves. His only regret was that he had not taken more time off to travel; and he encouraged his children and grandchildren not to repeat this mistake and to take every opportunity to see all parts of the world and make memories that would last their lifetimes.
More than anything else in his life, Jim loved and was immensely proud of his wonderful children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and they loved him beyond measure. To his grandchildren he was "Boog," short for Booger Red from his red hair in his younger days. In his later years, his children called and texted daily. He was also in frequent contact with his grandchildren--calling, texting, and receiving pictures from wherever they happened to be and whatever they happened to be doing. In earlier days, he routinely raced his grandson Nick Finnegan from the door of their favorite Mexican restaurant to the car, never letting him win--sometimes with a little cheating.
Jim is survived by his wife Linda, his daughter Catherine Miller and her husband, Bill, his daughter Susan Finnegan and her husband, Bill, his son Jimmy McCartney and his wife, Judy Ann, and his stepdaughter, Leighton Dancy. Also surviving him are his grandchildren, Maggie, Evans, and Clark Miller and his wife, Sarah, Jimmy and Louise McCartney, Scotty Finnegan and Terrell Finnegan Branch and her husband, Spencer, as well as his great grandchildren, Susie and Spencer Branch.
He was preceded in death by his parents Catherine Terrell McCartney and James W. McCartney, his first wife and the mother of his children, Louise Baker McCartney, and his grandson Nick Finnegan, with whom he shared many wonderful moments.
Jim's family would especially like to thank his loyal and patient assistant, Margie Moore, and his devoted caregivers, Matilde Martinez, Tim Guzman, Edwin Perdomo, Sergio Chavarria, Zack Surmawalle, Manuel Villarreal, and Rick Majano.
Friends are cordially invited to gather with the family and share remembrances of Jim during a reception to be held from five o'clock in the afternoon until seven o'clock in the evening on Tuesday, the 21st of September, in the grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.
A memorial service is to be conducted at two o'clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, the 22nd of September, in the Sanctuary of St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Road in Houston, where Dr. Tom Pace, Senior Pastor, is to officiate.
Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception at a venue to be announced during the services.
For those unable to attend the memorial service, a livestream will be accessible at https://www.stlukesmethodist.org/james-wilson-mccartney/
; or by visiting Jim's online memorial tribute at GeoHLewis.com
and selecting the "Join Livestream" icon on the Memorial Service section.
In lieu of customary remembrances, Jim asked that, since you cannot give to him directly, you please consider the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center at St. Luke's United Methodist Church (finnegancounseling.org
); or the charity of one's choice
Published by Houston Chronicle from Sep. 20 to Sep. 22, 2021.