Charles H. “Chuck” James III, the CEO and president of C.H. James & Co., as well as the great-grandson of the company’s founder, died in his Atlanta home last Thursday. He was 62 years old.
Born July 29, 1958, James, a Charleston native and graduate of Charleston High School, assumed control of the company from his father — Charles H. James II — during the 1980s. Under his stewardship, C.H. James & Co. grew exponentially, going from about $4 million a year in revenue to revenues in excess of $60 million.
C.H. James & Co. services government agencies and departments, and supplies a wide variety of eateries ranging from fast food giants Wendy’s and McDonald’s to the likes of Olive Garden and The Capital Grille. It also touts an international food distribution operation.
The era under his stewardship also saw the creation of C.H. James Restaurant Holdings in 2004. That entity owns 43 quick-service restaurants in Chicago and is the largest African-American franchisee of Burger King.
“Each generation of my family has created a bigger and better company,” James once told the Los Angeles Times. “All my forefathers are my heroes, but especially my great-grandfather. When you consider what he did in his time, I really have no excuses.”
Both the company and its fourth-generation captain collected honors during his tenure, including C.H. James & Co., being named “Company of the Year” by Black Enterprise magazine in 1992.
It has also been recognized by the Small Business Administration, the Veterans Administration, the Minority Business Development Agency of the United States Department of Commerce, and the Department of Defense.
A 1981 graduate of Morehouse College who later earned his MBA from the Wharton School of Business, James was inducted into the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2007. He was also a recipient of the Morehouse College Candle in the Dark Award, the Dow Jones Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence and the Office of the Governor’s Distinguished West Virginian Award. President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the National Nutrition Monitoring Advisory Council in 1991.
James was a member of the Morehouse College Board of Trustees for the past 18 years, while also serving on the board for the Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.
“My husband Booth and I send our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Mr. James,” said Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, “and we thank him for his leadership.”
According to his obituary, James will be buried in Charleston at a date to be determined.