Prominently displayed in the halls of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, is a plaque that reads:
“GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY FRIENDS OF DR. W.F. JAMES, SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER UNIVERSITY ON 12 MARCH 1980 INAUGURATED THE WILLIAM FLEMING JAMES CHAIR OF STUDIES IN THE PURE AND APPLIED SCIENCES IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS ALUMNUS, A RENOWNED GEOLOGIST, A PIONEER IN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT, A CHAMPION OF WORTHY CAUSES AND A GENTLEMAN OF HUMANE INSTINCT AND STERLING INTEGRITY”.
Shortly after the ceremonies inaugurating the new chair, the Halifax Herald said in part in an editorial:
“He (Dr. James) is the epitome of professional excellence – superbly trained in technical skiffs, dedicated, brilliant and hard-working. It could be said that he knew his trade.
“But he was more than that.
“He quickly came to be recognized as a man of impeccable professional integrity. Bill James combined that uncanny instinct for correctly gauging the potential of an unknown ore body with a reputation for scrupulous frankness and candor. During his long career as a consultant, Bill James has at one time or another been engaged by most of the great mining corporations of the world. Investments running into the hundreds of millions of dollars were decided often on the strength of Bill James’ advice and counsel.”
These two different texts serve as a succinct summary of the character and activities of Dr. William F. James who earned a B.Sc. in geology at St. Francis Xavier in 1918, an M.Sc. in geology at McGill in 1921 and a Ph.D. in geology at Princeton in 1923.
Between 1918 and 1929, James worked with the Geological Survey of Canada. In 1929, he began a career as a consulting geologist and this was where he invested his interest and energy for more than half a century. He formed his own firm known through the years as James and Gill, James and Buffam, James, Buffam and Cooper. In 1975, he left the partnership but continued as a consulting geologist.
From the inception of the first partnership, the practice of economic geology, which included underground and surface exploration, grew to include assistance and advice on mine financing. This frequently involved feasibility studies leading to funding to production. In this capacity, he became a dependable voice in many of the world’s largest mining enterprises. With his partners, he built an unequalled reputation for ability, integrity, dependability and candor that gave credence to their opinions not only in geological matters but also in financial matters for a broad spectrum of mines from gold to uranium.