We are sad to announce that our friend and co-founder of Gammon & Grange, James A. (Jim) Gammon, went to be with the LORD on August 3, 2011.
REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE & LEGACY OF MY PARTNER
JAMES A. GAMMON
JANUARY 30, 1934 – AUGUST 3, 2011
by George R. (Chip) Grange
On Wednesday, August 3rd, Jim Gammon-my partner at Gammon & Grange and friend for 40+ years-departed this earth. As I had seen him do on occasions when he felt a meeting or gathering had served its useful purpose, without seeking permission, without formalities, and sometimes without announcement, he would simply leave the room. Again, without announcement or permission, Jim has left the room, and the emptiness is huge.
Jim was a BIG personality. His personality was probably more massive than his biceps. (I think he was still benching over 300 lbs. until he went to the hospital two weeks ago – at least he convinced me he could.) He was not missed in a crowd. I see in my mind’s eye that historic photo panning the masses at the Lincoln Memorial from behind Dr. Martin Luther King, and there near the front, the only face circled, a young Mr. Gammon is not to be missed. That is classic Gammon in a crowd.
Fortunately, in God’s kindness, Jim’s heart was even bigger than his personality; else it would have been dissipated in egoism. It was not! Jim’s bigness was regularly expressed in big vision (he loved the vision and hated the details), big prayers (big in purpose but not in length-he hated long prayers), and big/bold action. Jim was a doer, not a talker. Jim would go where angels feared to tread. Apparently he was truant when school taught the rest of us those normal fears of snakes, height, public speaking, and worst of all, the fear of man. That fear seemed remarkably missing from Jim’s DNA.
Without the harness of fearing what others might think, Jim would graciously breach those invisible demarcations that generally keep strangers separated. Jim had an uncanny grace to pop the bubbles in which we humans tend to travel, striking up substantive and encouraging conversations with strangers in line, in elevators, on the street. Jim was gifted in “neighboring strangers.”
Perhaps even more impacting was Jim’s boldness to pray. His fearless, faith-filled, spontaneous prayers for help and healing for those in need were countless. Showing up unannounced in hospital rooms, homes, or offices, or leaving his seat at G&G’s Tuesday Time to pray for someone in a moment of need, Jim was a one man flash mob of spontaneous prayer.
Speaking of “Tuesday Time,” that is a weekly catered lunch in our main conference room for staff and friends to share a meal, catch up on weeks’ events, be encouraged from God’s Word and work, and pray for each other, families, friends, clients, and a globe of needs. Unless he was traveling, Jim didn’t miss. He was the rock at the table. He was the only one with his own chair. (The Gammon chair was itself the opportunity for Jim’s good humor to play practical jokes on newbies at G&G.) Jim, a skilled raconteur, would rivet attention with a brief retelling of a fresh encounter with new or old friends, always illustrating the importance of trusting God to dispel awkwardness and dispense blessing as we stay alert to help people in our path. Though obviously I was not present as Jesus described the Good Samaritan, I know the servant’s face: it looks much like my friend and mentor, Jim Gammon.
“Mentor” understates Jim’s role in my life. Thirteen years my senior, he was a lifetime ahead of me in living. I was barely two years out of law school when he took me in, made me his partner, trusted me with his law firm, privileged me to share his good name. In the early, whirlwind days of a growing Communications Law practice with many religious broadcasting clients, he allowed me to be his traveling companion. I never worked so hard, ate so well, or laughed so much as on those many road trips with Jim. The lessons would come unannounced, often without words: “Always tell the client the bad news first, and immediately.” “Pick up the check – quietly, no drum-roll, please.” “The deal is the deal; honor it, even to your own hurt.” “The lie is in the shadows and the nuances, be plain talking, straight-forward, and in the light.” “If your problems can be solved with money, let’s get at the fixing, for these are not besetting problems.” “Character is everything.” “God works EVERYTHING together for good, to conform us to the likeness of His Son.” This last was his favorite verse of Scripture. As I reflect on these road trips from the rear view mirror, I see they were merely tiny segments of the real road trip called “life together.” Thank God for how much richer and fuller my journey has been for the life together with this big man, who was so generous with his wisdom, his encouragement, his stuff.
Jim was not perfect. He would be the first to tell you so. He was in process, as we all are. Never one for complicated prescriptions, Jim would commit himself to the Lord as he entered each new day, ask for God’s help and direction, and then seek to meet every circumstance and person with a whispered or silent, “Thank you Jesus,” in his heart.
The fruit and trajectory of 40+ years of his simple path of “trust and obey” is convincing. His life was on that path to which the Apostle Paul beckons the Philippians and us: “Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Jim heard that call; he heeded that call. Now the prize is his. Now Jim is fully alive. Now the Author of Life whose voice and personality is far bigger than Jim’s is showing our friend how true it really is that all things, ALL THINGS, have been working together for the greatest good in Jim’s life: God’s glory and man’s homecoming.
A fellow Director at G&G reminded me yesterday of this scene from The Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress: which seems a fitting description of Heaven’s perspective on Jim’s unannounced, but prepared-for, exit: “Thus Faithful met his end. But I saw in my dreams that, behind the crowds, there stood a chariot and horses waiting for Faithful, who … was taken up into it, and wafted through the clouds to the sound of trumpets. So, in truth, he fared better than his friend, Christian. He would arrive first at the Celestial City, having been Faithful unto death; the King would now give him a crown of life.”
Even in these first few days since his departure, many encouraging stories have arrived, recounting precious humorous or memorable encounters with The Man. Our hope is that we might be “spurred on toward love and good deeds” as we reflect on Jim’s legacy of countless former strangers who have been “neighbored” by the kindness and encouraging word or prayer of this big man with bold love.
REMEMBRANCES OF JAMES A. GAMMON
by the Gammon Family
Jim Gammon was born in Keokuk, Iowa, in January of 1934. His childhood was full of troublemaking shenanigans, boys-only club houses, football, basketball, underage driving and the like. While attending the University of Notre Dame, he went to a party with some hometown friends and met Joanne Mott. Later that evening, he declared he’d met the woman he would marry. And, after convincing her to end her current engagement to another man, he did just that on August 31, 1957.
Moving to Washington, D.C., to attend Georgetown Law School, Jim and Joanne set up an apartment where, 10 months later, they welcomed Dan, the first of five children. Tom, Matt, Kelly and Tim quickly followed, and eventually, they moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland. All were welcomed into their homes with love and laughter and music. Jim took a special interest in many people and liked nothing better than a game of basketball in the driveway, a work-out in the basement, or a run through the neighborhood to get to know someone. As a consequence, his friends and admirers were diverse and wide-spread.
But his anchor and his passion were his family. His commitment to his wife was always first and foremost. ‘Anything for Jo,’ was his credo. But, really, it was ‘anything for everyone in the family.’ In fact, to his children, in-laws and grandchildren, he simply told one and all that they were the best, that they had ‘the tickets;’ and, that he was a little embarrassed for the other kids who had to compete/perform against them. He made clear to the whole family his certainty that all of them would accomplish great things.
He will be missed because his presence was so large, but also, because his support was so constant. We say goodbye to a Rock, a Legend. With his wife Joanne at his side for 54 years, Jim built a legacy of love, laughter and great times. We will never again have his presence, but we can vow to keep it alive, carry forward his legacy of love and support in our own families, and know that he will continue to cheer us on from above.