James Patrick Kelly

March 25, 1946February 15, 2021

James Patrick Kelly of Atlanta, GA, died on Monday, February 15th, at his home, surrounded by his family. He was 74. He fought cancer, with courage, for 17 years. He won that fight. Jim held on to watch his oldest grandson grow taller than him, and fall in love, and score for his high school Varsity soccer and lacrosse teams. He held on to teach his second grandson to ride a horse, and to build a trap with his own hands, and to shoulder a rifle. And he held on to see his youngest grandson beat him down the mountain on skis, then march off to school in a Lovett uniform.

Jim was born on March 25, 1946, in Twin Falls, Idaho. He grew up in neighboring Jerome, and cherished time spent on his grandfather Alastra’s sheep ranch in Hazelton.

He moved east and graduated from Harvard College in 1968, where he won the Landon Prize. Along the way, during a summer job helping to build a school in rural Appalachia, he met the love of his life: Carol White of Shreveport, Louisiana, who was volunteering as the school teacher. War interrupted his studies and he was drafted out of law school into the United States Army. He and Carol moved to Augsburg, Germany, where their daughter, Mary Louise, was born in an Army field hospital. Jim served as a Captain from 1968-1972. Upon returning to Cambridge, he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1975, where he served as editor of the Harvard International Law Journal.

Jim practiced law in Atlanta for 45 years. Prior to founding the health law boutique of Kelly Law Firm in 1986, he practiced with several leading firms in Atlanta. He lectured and wrote frequently and was an American Health Lawyers Association Inaugural Fellow in 2005. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Health Lawyers Association and the Board of Directors of the Georgia Academy of Healthcare Attorneys. He served his community as President of the Harvard Club of Georgia, as an usher at the Cathedral of St. Philip, as a member of the Capital City Club and the Lawyers Club of Atlanta, and as team dad and unofficial photographer for more of his son, C.J.'s, baseball games than you can count. Both his children followed him to Harvard. Mary Louise became a novelist and journalist at NPR's All Things Considered; C.J. built a career in commercial real estate and is Senior Vice President at CBRE, which we mention because Jim would want you to know. He was so proud of his family.

Jim loved to run. He ran the Marine Corps marathon; he ran behind his kids while teaching them to ride a bike; he ran the Peachtree Road Race, every year. He loved to ski. He loved to hike, especially through the aspens around Jackson Hole. He loved to travel, and to read, and to watch old war movies, and to sit on the porch of Gus’s cabin at Burge Club. He loved a good Manhattan, mixed with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. He loved German sausages and spätzle, and when his wife baked him gingerbread boys at Christmas.

He loved to compete, and he taught his family never to give up. Late in life, when he couldn't run as fast as he once did, he took to training for the weight-lifting competition at the annual Basque festival in Gooding, Idaho. The premise is simple: take a 108-lb. weight in each hand, square your shoulders and walk until you drop. Jim left men half his age in the dust. His crowning achievement was a third place finish in 2016, for which he won $10. While this technically made him a professional Basque weight carrier, he preserved his amateur status by competing under his Basque grandfather's name, or as Jim called it, his nom de guerre: Santiago.

Jim was preceded in death by his father, James Patrick Kelly, Sr. and his mother, Ynes Alastra Kelly. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Carol White Kelly; his children, Mary Louise Kelly of Washington, D.C. and C.J. Kelly of Atlanta; his son-in-law, Nicholas Boyle; his daughter-in-law, Jennifer Kelly; his grandsons, James Boyle, Alexander Boyle and Cache Kelly; and his sisters, Marie Kelly and Irene Kelly.

A celebration of Jim's life will be held in Atlanta when it is safe to gather. Arrangements by Patterson Funeral Home. A service is planned at Arlington National Cemetery in the Washington, D.C. area in the fall.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of James P. Kelly ’68 to the Harvard College Dean’s Undergraduate Fund for Travel and Research:


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


James Patrick Kelly

have a memory or condolence to add?

Judy Charles

February 27, 2021

Jim and his family were my neighbors for 20 years. He was a great husband and father to his children. We spent many years sharing stories about our families. Jim was always ready to help if anyone needed any thing
I am so sorry to hear of his passing.

With my deepest sympathy

Judy Charles

Nancy Hallman Partido

February 25, 2021

I'm so sadden to hear about Mr. Kelly's passing. I have known him and his family for most of my life.
I will never forget how much he loved to dance.
With his BIG smile, he would hit the dance floor at my parents new year's parties every year. I think we have tons of pictures of him and Mrs. Kelly dancing. I will have my dad look for them.

My thoughts are with you all and hope you find peace and comfort.
Much love!

Harry Hallman

February 25, 2021

I'm crushed to hear Jim has passed. He was one of the most fantastic people I know. Jim was my first Lawyer when I moved to Atlanta in 1981, and we became much more than lawyer and client. I saw his children grow up as he and Carol watched mine.

Jim helped me through some troublesome business times and was always a bright light in my life. I will always remember how gracious he was to my mother and family when he helped me with a case in Philadelphia. I invited him to dinner at mom's modest home on spaghetti night, and he often reminded me about that time and how much he enjoyed it.

Carol, Mary Louise, and CJ, I am so very sorry for your loss. The world has also lost a truly wonderful man.

Lamar Blount

February 23, 2021

Carol, I am sorry to read about Jim's passing and pray that God will bless you and your family with peace and comfort. I consider Jim as mentor who had enough faith in me in the 80s and 90s to help me get started professionally, hiring me as an expert in numerous cases where he was the lawyer for physicians or other medical providers. I know he cherished being with and was so proud of his family because virtually every time I visited or talked with Jim, he shared with me about a recent travel adventure with Carol or accomplishments by Mary Louise or CJ or a grandchild. I fondly recall several trips with him to meet with opposing attorneys and their experts, whom he treated with respect and dignity, but Jim really knew Medicare and almost always won those legal battles. He also provided professional legal advice to me several times, and I always felt that he was most insightful and trustworthy. I will miss Jim but will never forget him.

Lamar Blount
Health Law Network

Jerome Marchuk

February 20, 2021

A Good Friend and a Great Attorney. We had nothing but the highest regard for Jim, thought of him often even though we were separated by miles and states in the end.
The Good never dies, just lives in our memories forever.
There is a New Star in the heavens.
Jerry and Mary Marchuk

Irene Kelly

February 18, 2021

Best big brother ever.

Sharon Lutz

February 18, 2021

James Kelly was part of our Jerome High School graduating class of 1964. Being from a small rural town in Idaho we all knew each other well.
James was a kind and gentle soul, with a quiet demeanor and brilliant in all subjects. Our class was so pleased that he was able to attend our 50th reunion in 2014.
I remember being so happy to see him and in absolute awe of all he had achieved since high school. Even though it did not surprise me!

Not only was he successful in the academic world but in talking with him about his family you could hear the tremendous love and pride he felt. He was truly a special person!
May God bless and comfort his family. He will always be remembered by his Idaho classmates.

Charlane & Tom Corish

February 18, 2021

Carol, we are sad to hear of Jim's passing. Our sincere condolences on your loss.

Charlane & Tom Corish