James Hormel, ambassador and philanthropist, dies at 88

Published 2:04 pm Monday, August 16, 2021

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James Catherwood Hormel, the youngest son of Jay and Germaine Hormel and youngest grandchild of George and Lillian Hormel, died on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, at a hospital in San Francisco. He was 88 years old.

Retired Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Director Larry Dolphin, left, and his successor Luke Reese, center, chat with James Hormel, the son of Jay Hormel, during a special open house for donors to unveil the new interpretive center. Herald file photo

Born Jan. 1, 1933, in Austin, Hormel received a law degree from the University of Chicago law school, where he was later dean of students. He was a co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign and funded many activities geared to the arts, education, and LGBT rights. A champion in the fight against AIDS, Hormel contributed funds to the National AIDS Memorial Grove and the American Foundation for AIDS Research, of which he was a member of the board of directors.

Hormel made history when he became the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg from Sept. 8, 1999, to Jan. 1, 2001.

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In addition to his advocacy work, Hormel also served on the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Hormel is survived by his husband, Michael, as well as five children, 14 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.