Kay Coles James is a conservative political figure who has served in various government and executive roles. She was most notably the first African American president of the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank.
James was born June 1, 1949, and raised in Richmond, Virginia. She graduated from Hampton University, an HBCU formerly known as Hampton Institute.
She is married to Charles E. James, Sr., who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs from 2001 to 2009 in the George W. Bush Administration. The couple has three children. James describes her career trajectory “from stay-at-home mom of three to being propelled by pro-life issues to enter public arena.” While her public role is broad, she has stated that “Pro-life is the greatest civil rights issue of our day.”
On November 4, 2009, Governor-elect Bob McDonnell of Virginia named her one of the co-chairs of his transition committee and subsequently appointed her as a member of Virginia Commonwealth University’s governing body, the Board of Visitors.
James was recruited into politics in by future President George W. Bush. In 1989, she was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and reappointed by President George H. W. Bush as a member of the National Commission on Children. She served under President George H. W. Bush as Associate Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as Assistant Secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
James has served as a board member of PNC Financial Services Group, the National Board of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the Magellan Health Services Board, and Amerigroup Corporation.
From December 2017 until March 2021, James served as president of the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative Washington, D.C.-based public policy research institute. She served as a board member for the previous 12 years, from 2005 to 2017.
In 2018, she was nominated by President Trump to serve as one of two members of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.
In March 2019, she was appointed to the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), which was set up by Google to advise on the ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence. Her appointment proved controversial, with some employees of Google protesting. On April 5, 2019, it was reported that Google had disbanded the ATEAC after more than 2,380 employees at Google signed a petition asking that James be removed from it. The petition signers stated that “James’ positions on transgender and immigrant rights should have disqualified her from weighing in on AI ethics.”
James is the founder and current board chair of the Gloucester Institute, an organization that trains and nurtures college-aged leaders in the Black community. The organization draws inspiration from the work of Dr. Robert Russa Moton, the successor to Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute.
She has held prominent roles with conservative organizations, including serving as a board member of Focus on the Family, Senior Vice President of the Family Research Council, and Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer for One-to-One Partnership, a national umbrella organization for mentoring programs.
Other board and commission roles include the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, the Virginia Empowerment Commission, the National Commission on Children, the Medicaid Commission, the Carter–Baker Commission on Election Reform, the NASA Advisory Council, the Fairfax County School Board, the Virginia State Board of Education, and the Young Life Board of Directors. She has also served on the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army and as a member of the Virginia Commonwealth University Board of Visitors. She was the Convention Secretary for the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego.
In 2022 James was appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia by newly elected Governor Glenn Younkin.
James has authored four books: Never Forget (1993), Kay James (1995), Transforming America: From the Inside Out (1995), and What I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Married (2001).
James is the mother of three grown children and the wife of Charles E. James, Sr., who was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs from 2001 to 2009 during the administration of George W. Bush.
James was named one of the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Women in History in 2018.
The estimated Net Worth of Kay Coles James is at least $62,100 as of 9 March 2012. Kay James owns over 300 units of PNC Services Inc stock worth over $47,067 and over the last 14 years Kay sold PNC stock worth over $14,995.