James, of Canfield, cared deeply about the community
By William K. Alcorn
“I never saw him wear anything but a suit and tie,” Richard Scarsella of Boardman said, speaking of the late C. Gilbert “Gib” James Jr., who died Friday at home. He was 93.
“Gibby had good manners, a wry sense of humor, was very generous and cared deeply about improving the community. He was a giant in the Mahoning Valley,” said Scarsella, chairman of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society, which presented James with its Pioneer Award in recognition of his leadership, community service, philanthropy, contributions to the social, cultural, civic and educational welfare of the Mahoning Valley, historical preservation and literacy efforts.
James was an ardent supporter of the community and many organizations, including service as a trustee and volunteer for the Butler Institute of American Art, the Mahoning County Agricultural Society (Canfield Fair) since 1966 and was a past president, the Rayen Foundation, the Swanston Foundation, the Buechner Foundation, the Youngstown Foundation, the Youngstown Playhouse, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, the Arms Museum, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, the Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown, the Museum of Labor and Industry and many others.
Scarsella described James, a graduate of The Rayen School, as a “walking encyclopedia of area business who lent his time, treasure and talent willingly for fundraising campaigns.”
“He was very quiet and unassuming and willing to help, he was a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker in the community, Scarsella said of James.
James, who served in the Army as a lieutenant during World War II, was in business his whole life with his brother, William T. James II, who together built and operated James & Sons Insurance Co. for more than 70 years.
“Gibby had a very good reputation in the business world,” said Scarsella, vocational supervisor for the Choffin Career and Technical Center.
In addition to James & Sons Insurance, Gilbert and William and their family built Forge Industries Inc. from the remnants of the George Renner Brewing Co. in Akron and the Renner Brewing Co. in Youngstown, which were created by their great-grandfather and grandfather, respectively. These businesses became Forge Industries Inc.