James King (1938-2019)

  • Big thinker: James King

    Big thinker: James King

James King, a former surgeon and political candidate who played key roles at some of the island’s top businesses, has died. Dr King was 80.

Dr King spent the 1990s and 2000s as chairman of several boards, including Bermuda College, the Bermuda Telephone Company and Argus Insurance.

He was a director at the Bank of Butterfield from 1978 to 1997, and chairman of its board from 1997 to 2007.

Dr King also served as chairman of the ruling United Bermuda Party from 1990 to 1993.

He ran as a candidate in the Progressive Labour Party stronghold of Devonshire North in the 1993 and 1998 General Elections.

However, he was understated about his accomplishments and told The Royal Gazette in 2007: “I prefer to do things quietly and not in the headlights.”

Dr King died on Friday after a long illness, with friends and family at his side.

Sir John Swan, a former UBP premier, said Dr King was “a highly competent surgeon and an astute businessman who reached across the spectrum of Bermuda’s community”.

Sir John added: “As chairman of the UBP, he did a sterling job.

“He was a big thinker, someone who understood the value in building relationships, and who could well represent Bermuda in whatever he did.”

Dr King trained at the University of Toronto as a specialist chest surgeon, but also excelled outside his field.

Venetta Symonds, the president and chief executive of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said she had worked with him when she was a young radiographer and it was “nerve-racking, because he was always considered a great doctor who was strict, direct and intolerant of nonsense”.

She added: “He was serious, with high standards, but this was balanced with his kind words and all-knowing smile.”

In the early 1970s, Dr King was among the first to set up practice close to the hospital with a group that included fellow surgeon Delmont Simmons.

Dr Simmons said: “Jim was a diligent, hard-working colleague who I could call at any time to help with a problem, which I did, many times.

“I could be operating on a Sunday afternoon, need a surgeon, and if I called Jim, he would be there in 15 minutes to help.

“He was a general surgeon and when he started there were not many people who could do that.”

Wilbert Warner, a friend and also a surgeon, said Dr King was “a superb surgeon who could have practised his craft anywhere in the world, but decided to serve the Bermuda community”.

Dr Warner added: “He certainly was one of the best surgeons I’ve worked with both here and in Canada. He did all the tough cases.”

He said Dr King had tackled the “very rare, very risky” operation to remove a tumour in the adrenal glands — pheochromocytoma.

Dr Warner said: “I don’t believe another such surgery has been performed at King Edward since that time.”

Among Dr King’s friends was Dennis Fagundo Sr, a co-director at D&J Construction.

Mr Fagundo said: “He was a business partner and close friend. We worked on business ideas and travelled together; when he left the medical field 20 years ago, he got a lot more involved in business.

“He was very caring and quiet and probably the best surgeon in this country.”

The Bank of Butterfield experienced major growth under Dr King’s leadership.

Dr King told colleagues when he stepped down as chairman: “The thing I am most proud of is having had the opportunity to see the bank continue to prosper and do well.”

Charles Marshall, a former senator, was Dr King’s running mate in the 1993 and 1998 elections.

Mr Marshall said: “We took on the Opposition leader’s district. We lost both times, but we enjoyed it greatly.

“Dr King could walk into a house and tell many of them that he had brought them into the world.

“He made a very valuable contribution to Bermuda and its advancement. It wasn’t easy, particularly in the days of segregation.

“If it was not for people like Dr King, we would not have the lifestyle we are used to today.”

Dr King was predeceased by his son, Peter, and leaves his wife, Lauren, his son, James Jr, and siblings Ann and Paul.

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Published Aug 21, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 21, 2019 at 8:11 pm)

James King (1938-2019)

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