Dr. James W. "Jim" Colbert, Jr.

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James William Colbert, Jr.

Nicknames: "Jim Colbert", "James W. Colbert", "Capt. James W. Colbert", "James W. Colbert Jr.", "Dr. Jim Colbert"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: New York, Bronx, New York, United States
Death: Died in Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina, United States
Cause of death: Severe burns and smoke inhalation as a result of an airplane crash
Place of Burial: Annapolis National Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James William Colbert and Mary M Tormey
Husband of Lorna Elizabeth Tuck
Father of <private> Colbert; Edward T. Colbert; <private> Colbert; William George Colbert; <private> Colbert and 6 others

Occupation: Doctor, educator, administrator, civil rights advocate
Managed by: Geoffrey David Trowbridge
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About James William Colbert, Jr.

Dr. James W. Colbert Jr. was a renowned medical doctor and a captain in the United States Army. He was also the father of 11 children, including performer Stephen Colbert and noted intellectual property attorney Edward T. Colbert.

Early Life

James W. Colbert was born, along with twin sister Margaret, on December 14, 1920 in the Bronx, New York to parents James Sr. and Mary Tormey Colbert. The family lived in Larchmont, Westchester County, New York and was strictly Roman Catholic. Colbert, known as "Jim" to his family, was considered a "bookish" child.

Colbert graduated from Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle, New York and received his A.B. in Philosophy from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1942. He then earned his M.D. in 1945 from Columbia University, completing an internship at New York City's famed Bellevue Hospital and his residency at Yale University.

In 1946, Dr. Colbert became Capt. Colbert, spending a year in Europe with the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

Family Life

On August 26, 1944, Colbert married his childhood sweetheart, Lorna Tuck. Together, the couple had 11 children:

  • James ("Jimmy")
  • Edward ("Eddie")
  • Mary
  • William ("Billy")
  • Margo
  • Thomas ("Tommy")
  • Jay
  • Elizabeth ("Lulu")
  • Paul
  • Peter
  • Stephen

Medical & Educational Career

This section incorporates text from the Medical University of South Carolina Library, a public institution.

In 1949, Dr. Colbert returned to the Army Medical Corps, where he served as a representative of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, Director of Hepatitis Research Team, and Technical Director of the Hepatitis Laboratory in Munich, Germany. During this same period, Dr. Colbert also served as Instructor of Medicine at Yale and rose to the position of Assistant Professor of Medicine.

In 1951, Dr. Colbert was promoted to Assistant Dean of the Yale University School of Medicine, a position he held until 1953, when he left Yale to become Dean of the St. Louis University School of Medicine. At that time at the age of 32, he was the youngest person to hold the deanship of a medical school. He served as Dean at St. Louis until 1961, when he accepted the post of Associate Director for Extramural Programs at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.

On February 1, 1969, Dr. Colbert arrived at the Medical University of South Carolina as its first Vice President for Academic Affairs. During his five years of service, Dr. Colbert oversaw the Medical University during a period of unparalleled growth. His work laid the foundation for MUSC’s rise as a nationally-renowned academic medical center. Dr. Colbert played a major role in the development of South Carolina’s statewide system of health education (AHEC), and was instrumental in developing the Medical University's Family Practice program.

Dr. Colbert was particularly noted for his pivotal role in negotiating a peaceful resolution to the volatile and racially-divisive 1969 Hospital Workers Strike. He had long been a fervent advocate for civil rights, including attending Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with his family. His activism on behalf of civil rights also led him to become a personal friend of, among others, Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. In 1960, he had met with future president John F. Kennedy.

Death & Legacy

On September 11, 1974, Dr. Colbert died alongside two of his young sons, Paul and Peter, when their plane crashed outside Charlotte, North Carolina en route to tour a Catholic boarding school in Connecticut. The three were buried together at the Annapolis National Cemetery in Maryland.

Dr. Layton McCurdy, dean emeritus of the MUSC College of Medicine, described him as a "transformative figure" who helped the university adopt the traditions of academic medicine, a doctrine that seeks to improve patient care through continual medical research and education. In 2009, the university dedicated the James W. Colbert Education Center and Library. He is also the focus of an extensive memorial website hosted by the university.

During the 2008 Writers Guild of America strike, Dr. Colbert's son Stephen dedicated a lengthy segment of his program The Colbert Report to memorializing his father's role in mediating the 1969 Hospital Workers Strike.

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Dr. James W. "Jim" Colbert, Jr.'s Timeline

1920
December 14, 1920
New York, Bronx, New York, United States
1947
January 20, 1947
Age 26
1950
May 12, 1950
Age 29
1956
August 7, 1956
Age 35
Missouri, United States