Dr. Arthur G. James believed all cancer would eventually be eradicated. That belief coupled with his dedication to the idea that cancer patients need separate, specialized care, led him to lobby, campaign, and fund-raise for 35 years to build a cancer hospital in Ohio.
The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute opened at Ohio State on July 9, 1990. After a gift of $20 million from Richard J. Solove in 1999, the facility was renamed the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, but is commonly referred to as the James. The facility remains the only freestanding cancer hospital in Ohio to this day.
James was born to Italian immigrant parents in the coal mining town of Rhodesdale, Ohio. The third of eight children, James worked to save enough money for college, graduated as co-valedictorian of his high school class and earned a scholarship to Ohio State.
Once at Ohio State, James continued to work part-time jobs to pay his room and board. He chose to study engineering, like his elder brother, but in his sophomore year decided he wanted to study medicine. He received his bachelor of arts degree in 1934 and his master’s degree in 1937. He met his wife, Milly, while in medical school and they were married in 1940.
Upon his graduation from Ohio State, he received a fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, where he became interested in the field of surgical oncology. The outbreak of World War II disrupted these plans but eventually, he returned to complete his fellowship in New York.
He returned to his alma mater in 1948 as a member of the OSU faculty, a position he would hold for almost 40 years. In 1960 James began advocating for the establishment of a cancer hospital. At that time, the only hospitals dedicated to the study of cancer were in New York and Texas. Arthur James wanted to change that. It took him more than 30 years, but in the end, he convinced the community, the State and the University that a cancer hospital was needed.
In 1984, ground was broken on the hospital that now bears his name. It was completed in 1988, and, the James is now one of the premier cancer treatment hospitals in the nation.
James was recognized for his work many times. He served as President of the American Cancer Society from 1972-73, and was awarded the organization’s Medal of Honor in 1990. He was also inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, a non-profit service organization which recognized those people who have achieved great success despite humble or difficult circumstances. Despite the awards and the fanfare, James was always committed to the cause, and it was his passion to help people with cancer.
After a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, James died on October 22, 2001, at the age of 89 years. Dennis Smith, director of administration at The James at the time said of him, “Without Dr. James, this hospital simply would not exist. His memory and dedication will live on through this hospital and all we achieve.”