James W. Scott Sr., a retired executive, philanthropist and former advisor to South Africa President Nelson Mandela, died on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. He was 60.
He was born on Nov. 2, 1958, in Philadelphia to the late Samuel and Shirley Scott. He was the third of five children.
Scott was educated in the School District of Philadelphia and was a graduate of West Philadelphia High School. He was proud to be a West Philly “Speedboy” as a standout athlete in track and field and an honor student.
Scott went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Lincoln University, a master’s degree in business administration from National University in Sacramento, California, and a master’s degree in organizational dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania.
Scott was vice president of national sales at the Kellogg’s Cereal Co., president/CEO of Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB) and a director for the School District of Philadelphia.
He started his career at Kellogg’s in 1982, served in various executive positions and lived in multiple states around the country. As Kellogg’s became a major sponsor, Scott co-hosted the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon, which raised millions of dollars to support historically Black colleges and universities for several years.
His corporate career was followed by answering the call of philanthropy and joining the International Youth Foundation to serve as vice president of its global millennium campaign “The Children’s Hour.” The success of this global collaboration opened the door to an opportunity of a lifetime. He was selected to help transform the country of South Africa as the leader of a major health and education initiative.
As president and CEO of MESAB, Scott led an international effort resulting in the training of thousands of Black South African doctors and health professionals. This education and training was previously unattainable to most of the Black population due to apartheid.
Through private and corporate fund-raising efforts in the United States and South Africa, the cost of tuition and fees was removed as an obstacle for these students.
Scott worked directly with Mandela for several years as Mandela held regular meetings and dinners in Pretoria. Mandela also appointed him to the board of the South Africa Education Trust.
The success of the effort bolstered the dual goals of building a “Black economic middle class” and increasing the number of health care professionals who were desperately needed in the immediate aftermath of post-apartheid South Africa.
After three decades of extensive travel, Scott accepted a position as director of community and faith-based partnerships with the Philadelphia school district. The position allowed him to lead the district’s efforts to better engage the entire community in the search for lasting solutions to problems in public education. Many initiatives started during that era are still used today as “best practices” for driving community and faith-based involvement in schools.
During the past few years, Scott’s health started to fail and he left his position at the school district. He loved to write and started producing a popular weekly column for the Philadelphia Scoop newspaper covering communities and national issues, often with a humorous perspective.
He married Teresa Wright in 1984 and two sons were born to their union, James Jr. and Austin. He was a devoted husband, father, brother and uncle who truly loved his family.
He is survived by: his sisters, Barbara and Brenda; brothers, Samuel and Kenneth; aunt, Marie Weddington; and other relatives and friends.
Services were private. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory can be made to West Philadelphia High School Scholarship Fund, Lincoln University Scholarship Fund, Gift of Life Donor Program and American Cancer Society.