DR. JAMES H. CORWIN II: 1929-2010; School Board Leader Active in Civic Affairs Remembered as "A Great Person and a Good Public Servant."

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James H. Corwin II, a surgeon and former chairman of the Duval County School Board who was active in civic affairs, died Thursday at the McGraw Center of Caring of Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. He had Alzheimer's disease and was 81.

A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Friday at Palms Presbyterian Church, 3410 Third St. S., Jacksonville Beach.

Dr. Corwin left the School Board after serving from 1976 to 1984. He made a bid for a state legislative seat but narrowly lost in a Republican runoff.

During his two years (1979-81) as School Board chairman, which he termed "controversial" in a 1981 interview with The Times-Union, he supported an elective sex education course for secondary schools, a tough student disciplinary code and construction of a new $6 million riverfront administration building.

He also noted that relations with the City Council were "very bad" and he appointed a board member as liaison, a move that resolved a lot of problems, including no longer having to pay the city $12,000 a year to use the Coliseum for high school graduations.

He began his first year as chairman as the Duval County school system became the nation's largest fully accredited system by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

When he ended his second year as chairman, Dr. Corwin nominated Wendell Holmes to succeed him and Holmes became the board's first black chairman.

"Dr. Corwin had an unusual sense of objectivity in his approach to those matters that came before the board," Holmes recalled Friday. "He had a knack of thinking quickly, but very objectively, and that is really needed on the board because sometimes you don't have a lot of time to mull things over."

Holmes served on the School Board from 1968 to 1986. He said he had a great deal of respect for Dr. Corwin and was delighted to have served with him.

"He was a great person and a good public servant," Holmes said.

Dr. Corwin was a founder and vice president of the Duval Public Education Foundation, which raised funds to provide non-tax dollars for student activities.


Born and reared in Washington, Pa., Dr. Corwin earned his B.A. degree from Penn State University in 1950. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father in earning his M.D. degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1956. …


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