Paul S. James


Paul Samuel James died on January 21. He was 87.

Paul was founder and President of Solar Electrical Construction Corp, and its sister company, Eastern Seaboard Engineering. Solar was a prime electrical contracting firm established in 1964 doing business for nearly 30 years. It was the largest African-American-owned electrical construction firm in New England, employing over 100 employees at its peak. Paul held many leadership positions in the industry, many a first for an African American, including as President of the National Electrical Contractors Association for two terms.

Paul served in the U.S. Navy from 1943–47, where he learned the electrical craft. Because of his fair complexion and sparkling blue eyes, Paul’s race was not apparent, which allowed him to pursue an electrical apprenticeship in the Navy, otherwise not open to blacks at that time.  He left the Navy with the rank of EM2 (Electrician’s Mate 2nd class), ultimately resulting in the creation of the largest minority-owned electrical construction firm in the Northeast for some time.

Just a few notable projects completed by Solar included the JFK Library, Prudential Center, Neiman Marcus, Marriott at Copley Place, Harvard University dorms, Mass Bay Transportation stations (MBTA) and Roxbury Community College.

In addition to his business involvements, Paul was a generous supporter of Sportsman’s Tennis Center, Lena Park Community Development Center, and Dimock Community Health Center, to name a few.

Paul was a pioneer not only in his field, but he also broke many color lines. His was one of the first black families to move to the all white community of Braintree.

He held director level positions at IBEW and Boston Chamber of Commerce, and he was appointed by the governor to the Board of Trustees of Bridgewater State College, where he took a stand for women and minorities as the only black trustee. He resigned from the board, citing unfair hiring practices during their search for several executive level vacancies. At that time, 1983, more than 70 percent of the students were women, according to the Boston Globe. After gaining the support of then Gov. Michael S. Dukakis to monitor the selection of the new administrators, he withdrew his resignation after assurances that the college would follow affirmative action guidelines.

As the very proud father to five children, and one of 12 siblings, Paul’s family was most important to him. He treasured summer family time on Martha’s Vineyard, court time at Sportsmen’s Tennis Center, and family trips near and far. His competitive spirit was manifest in his love of tennis, Pinochle, photography, and being the best-dressed man in town.

He was the beloved father of the late Howard James, Paula James Nailor, Karen James Sykes, Stephanie James Stewart, Francine Ellen James, all of Boston, as is his former wife, Francine (Roberts) James. He leaves four grandchildren, a host of nieces, nephews, and his long-time companion, Barbara Boutin, who will all miss him dearly.

A memorial service was held Saturday, January 25, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Milton.

In lieu of flowers, make donations in Paul’s memory to the Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center, 950 Blue Hill Ave. Dorchester MA 02121.