After retiring in 1994, Mr. James had a busy second act in philanthropy and civic work, serving as chairman of the President’s Circle of the National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and the ad industry trade group 4As.
He also engaged in what his wife described as the “four S’s”: sailing, scuba diving, shooting and skiing. Mr. James went on some 400 dives around the world, attended shooting expeditions in England, Argentina and Russia and was a commodore of the New York Yacht Club for a year, she said. A member of the club for almost 50 years, he owned a 94-foot sailing yacht named Misty and participated in many biennial races from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda.
“He was passionate and competitive in both his work and his personal life,” Bill Kolb, the chairman and chief executive of McCann Worldgroup, of which McCann is now a part, wrote in a tribute to Mr. James that was sent to McCann employees.
Mr. James’s lifelong motto, he said, was, “What one can conceive, one can achieve.”
Robert Leo James was born on Sept. 23, 1936, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where decades later he became a trustee. He grew up in New York, the only child of Mildred Virginia James, who worked with Farm Journal Magazine, and Leo Francis James, who escorted mail for an export service.
After skipping three grades as a child, he then attended Fordham Preparatory School and later earned a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in upstate New York, studying literature. He earned an M.B.A. degree from Columbia University.