James B. Murray was born August 19, 1938, to Gene and Wilma Lee Murray. He died on December 28, 2022, at KU Medical Center surrounded by his large and loving family. Jim is survived by his wife of over 60 years, Joyce Murray; grandsons, Joseph (Rebecca) Bobbitt and grandson, James Bobbitt; great grandsons, Jordan and Jackson Bobbitt; siblings, Michael (Marcia) Murray, Kathleen (David) Lanter, Patrick (Leslie) Murray, and numerous nieces and nephews living in Kansas and Texas.
Jim was a graduate of Saint Agnes High School in Fairway, Kansas, and the University of Missouri Columbia. He was awarded a full scholarship to play football and was a loyal and avid Mizzou fan all his life. He joined the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and majored in journalism and art.
Just out of college, Jim was hired as an editorial artist by the Kansas City Star/Times where he worked 18 years, serving as art director before he resigned. His works there illustrated the careers of athletes, politicians, and well-known local regional and national citizens.
A member of the Baseball Writers of America, he was an award-winning sports illustrator with his work appearing in various newspapers and magazines. Jim co-authored, illustrated, and published a book with sportscaster Bill Grigsby, titled Don’t Spit in the Wastebasket. With four close friends who all had careers at the Star/Times, he wrote, illustrated, and published From Worst to First, a book about the inception of major league baseball in Kansas City through the time of the 1985 World Series. Shortly before his death, Jim completed work on a retrospective of his illustrations covering the Kansas City Chiefs and other NFL players from the 1960s into the 1990s. That book will be published posthumously and is entitled Just For Kicks.
Throughout his career, Jim completed commissioned portraits that included Astronaut John Glenn, United States Senator Stuart Symington, and Kansas governors John Carlin and Joan Fenney.
Jim once said to a good friend, “I am always interested in and enjoy old cars, old books, old houses, old hand-crafted furniture, and especially my ‘old’ wife!” In partnership with friends, he purchased and restored four historic homes located in Janssen Place and Central Hyde Park, and three homes in the Crown Center area. By working closely with then City Councilman Jerry Riffle and local lenders, he was instrumental in fighting the practice of “red lining” within older city neighborhoods. He served on the City Plan Commission for Kansas City in the 1980s, emphasizing the need to fight urban blight.
Jim was the owner and publisher of the Northeast World and The Sports Connection. He founded The Sports Connection in order to provide proper positive media coverage of high school boys’ and girls’ sports and activities throughout the entire Kansas City metropolitan area in Missouri and Kansas.
Jim served as president of the Saint James Catholic Church parish council, Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, delegate to UNICO National (an Italian-American service organization), and the Kansas City Chapter of UNICO National. He was a member of UNICO for over five decades and served two terms as president of this entirely volunteer organization dedicated to providing college scholarships to deserving students in the metro area. He was so proud to have been an integral part of awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and other donations.
He was an avid sports fan with a talent of recognizing, and having an appreciation of, the talents and sacrifices made by athletes. His keen memory allowed him to share his interests with his many friends and especially with his grandsons Joseph and James. He enjoyed attending Royals games with his grandsons, including the World Series playoffs. In recent years, they made special trips to see the Royals in spring training in Arizona and those were times and memories that he relished.
Jim was surrounded by his large and loving Irish family throughout his long illness and at the time of his death. He was a special gift to all who knew him—a man of incredible honesty, unimpeachable ethics, and kindness—and he possessed a gentle and inclusive acceptance of all those he met. His Celebration of Life will be held on March 11, 2023, at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City. Memories and expressions of sympathy to his family may be shared by clicking on the below button.