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Tom James: Master of the Art of Collecting

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Some people like to stay busy, even in “retirement.”

Take Thomas A. James, executive chairman of Raymond James Financial. He gave up the CEO role to Paul Reilly in 2010 after 40 years on the job. But James remains active on the company’s board, as well as in Raymond James’ hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, and beyond.

An avid art collector, James now chairs the board of trustees of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Pete; he joined the board in 1987. He also does volunteer work for the Harvard Business School, International Tennis Hall of Fame and Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation.

While James loves tennis, golf and music, his passion for art collecting, particularly art of the Southwest, is renowned. In fact, he and his wife Mary have acquired more than 3,000 pieces over the past 50 years — with much of the collection on display at Raymond James’ St. Petersburg headquarters.

What else could James do with his art? Open a museum, of course, which is what he plans to do next fall, when the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art is set for completion in downtown St. Pete.

The 80,000-square-foot James Museum will house about 500 of the top works of art from his collection. In addition to over 30,000 square feet of gallery space, it will include a 2,500-square-foot indoor sculpture court, a Native American jewelry collection, a 120-seat theater, a large event space, kitchen, museum store and café.

“It’s difficult to create something that will evoke memories of where you were, what you saw, what you thought. I found art had a way of doing that,” the Raymond James executive chairman explained in a statement.

The museum will offer educational programs that highlight the work of Florida-based artists, the history of the West and wildlife, as well as guest lectures from members of the Cowboy Artists of America group.

“It’s a great team [behind the project], and it will be a wonderful showcase of the art which Mary and I have been passionate about collecting and now sharing with the public,” said James, who has given more than $50 million for the landmark project.

As Hank Hine, executive director of the Dali Museum said recently about the philanthropist and his wife: “Built entirely from the James’ private funds, this museum is being constructed in downtown St. Petersburg to spur the cultural and economic life of the city: in short, to build community in a manner parallel to their contributions to every other aspect of our civic infrastructure.”


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