Alabama Academy of Honor


Thomas Naum James

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1980, 2002, and 2010.



Thomas Naum James, an internationally renowned cardiologist, scientific investigator, and teacher, was chairman of the department of Medicine at the University of Alabama in Birmingham Medical Center, The Mary Gertrude Waters Professor of Cardiology and Physician-in-Chief of The University of Alabama Hospitals. Dr. James gained international recognition with the publication in 1961 of the Anatomy of the Coronary Arteries, which is widely regarded as the definitive monograph on the subject and has become a standard reference.

Born in Amory, October 24, 1925, Dr. James graduated from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1949 and served his internship and residency at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan from 1950-1953. After serving two years as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps as chief of the Cardiovascular-Renal Ward and Regional Consultant of Cardiovascular Diseases at the Osaka Army Hospital in Japan, he returned to New Orleans where he was a cardiologist at Ochsner Clinic and instructor and assistant professor of medicine at Tulane School of Medicine, 1955-1959.

From 1959 to 1968, Dr. James was chairman of Cardiovascular Research at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. In 1968 he came to the University of Alabama in Birmingham as Professor of Medicine and Professor of Pathology, and Associate Professor of Physiology and Biophysics. He was Senior Scientist and Director of Research 1968-1970 and served as Director of the Cardiovascular Research and Training Center from 1970-1977. Spearheading this multi-disciplinary program, he brought to bear the knowledge and skills of scientists in the fields of cardiovascular surgery, medical cardiology, pediatric cardiology, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, mathematics, computer science, statistics and pathology in a coordinated attack on basic and clinical problems relating to diseases of the heart and blood vessels. He has been Consultant in Cardiology since 1969 to the Veterans Hospital in Birmingham. In 1977 he was named Distinguished Faculty Lecturer by the University of Alabama Medical Center.

From 1981 to 1987 he served as Distinguished Profesor at the University. In 1987 he accepted an invitation to become President of the University of Texas Medical Branch, the oldest medical school in Texas, where he served for 10 years. In 1997 he was appointed as the inaugeral holder of the Thomas N. and Gleeves T. James Distinguished Chair in Cardiological Sciences, also remaining Professor of Medicine and Professor of Pathology as well as Director of the W.H.O. Cardiovasculor Center.

Over the past forty years, Dr. James has authored or co-authored more than 450 research papers. His editorial responsibilities included being a member of the Editorial Board of Circulation since 1966, a member of the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Cardiology from 1968-1976 and Associate Editor since 1976, and a member of the Editorial Board of the American Heart Journal from 1976-1979.

In 1965 he was awarded the 150-Year Medal of the Swedish Medical Society in Stockholm. He presented lectures to medical groups, congresses, and universities on every continent including the Sixth World Congress of London (1970), the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (1971) and lectures in Mexico City, Bogota, Columbia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Chile in Latin America; lectures in Israel; and in 1978 lectures at the University of Peking and four other universities in the People's Republic of China; at universities and medical centers throughout Europe, including Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany; and in the United States: the Henry Jackson Lecture at the New England Cardiovascular Society in Boston, the Annual Lecturer at Galen's Honorary Medical Society, University of Michigan Medical Center, the John Kent Lewis Lecturer at Stanford University Medical Center, and the George E. Brown Memorial Lecture at the American Heart Association in 1975.

In 1981 he was honored as Citizen of the Year in his home town of Amory, Mississippi. The American College of Physicians made him a Master in 1983. He was Sir Thomas Lewis Lecturer for the British Cardiac Society in 1983, recieved the Citizen of the Year Award in Galveston and Texas City in 1993, gave the Einthover Lecture in Leiden in 1993, became a Distinguished Alumnus of the Henry Ford Hospital in 1993, recieved the Tree of Life Award at the Jewish National Fund in 1994, was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancment of Science in 1997, gave the Honour Lecture at the University of Padua in 1998, received the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 50th reunion of his graduating class in 1999, and was presented with The American Heart Association's James B. Herrick Award in 1999.

Dr. James was president of the American Heart Association (1979-1980) and past president of the Association of University Cardiologists (1978-1979) and the Cardiac Electrophysiological Group (1966-1967). He became a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine in 1957 and is a member of the Association of American Physicians, American Clinical and Climatological Association, American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Association of Anatomists, American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, American Society of Hematology, Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians, and Fellow of the American College or Cardiology. He served as Chairman of the Program Project Committee of the National Heart and Lung Institute 1970-1972 and was a member of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Advisory Council from 1975-1980. Dr. James was only the second American cardiologist to have served succesively as President of the American Heart Association, the International Society an Federation of Cardiology and a World Congress of Cardiology, the Tenth, in Washington in 1986.

In 1948, while in Medical School at Tulane, he married Miss Gleeves Elizabeth Tynes of New Orleans. They hasd three sons; Thomas Mark, Terrence Fenner and Peter Naum. His hobbies included tennis, canoeing, sailing and rock collecting.

Dr. James died on September 11, 2010.