Former Scranton mayor and retired Lackawanna County senior judge James J. Walsh died on July 26th 2019. He was 88 years old. Judge Walsh was one of Scranton’s youngest mayors and one of its longest serving jurists.
Born on October 12, 1930 in Scranton, he was the son of the late Edward J. Walsh and Dorothy Gurrell and a graduate of West Scranton High School. An outstanding student and athlete, he was awarded a football scholarship to Washington and Lee University after being named All American his senior year for football. His studies were interrupted for two years, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and served in Europe. On his return, he completed his college degree from the University of Scranton, and then earned a law degree at Georgetown University Law School in Washington, DC.
Judge Walsh, a former president and member of the Scranton School board, was elected mayor in 1965 at the age of 35. He brought to the office an unparalleled work ethic and an acute awareness of the city’s challenges. His four-year term was marked by many successes focused on progress for the city. He balanced the city budget, leaving the city with a budget surplus at the end of his term. As the first mayor to apply for matching state funds, he spearheaded construction of the Nay Aug pool. He revived the dormant Scranton Sewer Authority to begin work on a new sewer treatment plant, and modernized the city’s outdated fire alarm system. The Scranton Housing Authority completed the Adams Avenue High Rise Apartments and Washington West apartments to house Scranton’s elderly residents during his term.
After losing a hard-fought 1969 re-election bid, he returned to his private law practice. Two years later, he was appointed to fill a vacant judgeship by Governor Milton Shapp. He was elected in 1973 to a full ten-year term, and won retention elections in 1983 and 1993. Judge Walsh was elevated to President Judge on August 2, 1986 and became a senior judge in 2000. He retired from the judiciary in 2005 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.
He worked hard, and was known for his judicial temperament. His record over nearly 35 years on the bench was one of honesty, integrity, impartiality, courage and dedication. He was known for mentoring his law clerks, many of whom remained his friends for the rest of his life. Judge Walsh had many prominent criminal cases, including Joseph Aulisio’s 1981 trial for kidnapping and double murder, which drew international attention.
Above all, James Walsh was a gentleman devoted to his faith, family and friends. While mayor, he married Mary Fran McHugh in 1968. They enjoyed over 45 years together as parents and grandparents until her death in 2015. He was a beloved father to their two daughters, Maura and Jennifer and the proud grandfather of six grandchildren. He was an active member of St. Patrick’s parish until he moved to Washington, D.C. in 2014. He was a great man: a mold breaker, one of a kind. He was first and foremost an amazing father, grandfather and uncle who will be greatly missed. He left his mark on this world and truly left it a better place.
He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Fran, his brother, Edward and his parents. Surviving are his two daughters and their families: Maura Walsh Rogan and husband Christopher (Washington, DC), their three sons, James, John and Michael. His daughter Jennifer Walsh Boyle and husband Edward of Rye, NY and their three daughters, Connelly, Sophie and Quinn. He is also survived by cousins and many nieces and nephews.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday at 11am in St Patrick’s Church 1403 Jackson Street, Scranton.
Friends may call Friday from 4-7pm in the Kevin K. Kearney Funeral Home 125 N. Main Ave. Scranton and Saturday morning from 9:30am until time of Mass at the church.
Interment with military honors will be in Cathedral Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial contributions be made to St. Patrick’s Church 1403 Jackson Street, Scranton.