Kay Coles James

Kay Coles James (born June 1, 1949) is an American public official who has served as secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia since January 2022, and as the director for the United States Office of Personnel Management under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.[1] Previous to the OPM appointment, she served as Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources under then-Governor George Allen and was the dean of Regent University's government school. She is the president and founder of the Gloucester Institute, a leadership training center for young African Americans.

Kay Coles James
Kay Coles James 2020 (cropped).jpg
Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Assumed office
January 15, 2022
Acting: January 15, 2022 – March 2, 2022
GovernorGlenn Youngkin
Preceded byKelly Thomasson
President of the Heritage Foundation
In office
January 1, 2018 – December 2021
Preceded byEdwin Feulner
Succeeded byKevin Roberts
Director of United States Office of Personnel Management
In office
July 11, 2001 – January 31, 2005
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJanice Lachance
Succeeded byLinda M. Springer
6th Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources
In office
January 15, 1994 – March 12, 1996
GovernorGeorge Allen
Preceded byHoward Cullum
Succeeded byRobert Metcalf
Personal details
Madeline Kay Coles

(1949-06-01) June 1, 1949 (age 73)
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseCharles E. James, Sr.
EducationHampton University (BS)

On December 19, 2017, she was named president of the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank.[2] She is the first African-American and the first woman to hold that position.[3] On March 22, 2021, she announced she was resigning as President.[4]

Early life and educationEdit

James' mother was on government welfare for at least some of James' youth. She was raised in the inner city of Richmond, Virginia.

James attended John Marshall High School in Richmond, Virginia.[5] A graduate of Hampton University, James is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, most recently the Doctor of Laws Degree from Pepperdine University.[6] James is the recipient the University of Virginia's Publius Award for Public Service, and the Spirit of Democracy Award for Public Policy Leadership from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.[7]

As a 1994 graduation speaker at Hampton University, James said, "[The United States is] experiencing cultural AIDS. We as a country have been the victims of an immune system that has broken down. It's gone."[8]

Early careerEdit

James has served on the Fairfax County School Board and the Virginia Board of Education, and on the board of the conservative evangelical Focus on the Family.[9] She also was Senior Vice President of the Family Research Council, the conservative, Christian right group and lobbying organization.[10] She has also served as Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer for One to One Partnership, a national umbrella organization for mentoring programs.[11][failed verification]

She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and reappointed by President George H. W. Bush as member of the National Commission on Children, an advisory body on children issues.[12] She served under President George H. W. Bush as Associate Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as Assistant Secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the mid-1990s, James served as Dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[13] She also served as Convention Secretary for the 1996 Republican National Convention, which nominated Bob Dole for president.

Office of Personnel ManagementEdit

James in 2001

James served as the director for the United States Office of Personnel Management from 2001 to 2005 in the George W. Bush administration.[13]

Paul Krugman noted that Regent University boasted of 150 graduates working in the Bush administration and criticized James' tenure as the federal government's chief personnel officer when many of these hires occurred.[14] Boston Globe, journalist Charlie Savage wrote that previous to James' work as director of OPM, "veteran civil servants screened applicants and recommended whom to hire, usually picking top students from elite schools." Noting that Regent University is ranked a "tier four" school by U.S. News & World Report, the lowest score and essentially a tie for 136th place, Savage said James' changes resulted in lawyers with more conservative credentials, less prior experience in civil rights law and the decline of the average ranking of the law school attended by the applicants.[13] In addition to Savage, other journalists made similar comments.[15][16][17]

Later careerEdit

On November 4, 2009, Governor-elect Bob McDonnell of Virginia named her one of the co-chairs of his transition committee[18] and subsequently appointed her as a member of Virginia Commonwealth University's governing body, the Board of Visitors.[19]

On December 19, 2017, the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative Washington, D.C.-based public policy research institute, announced that James would be its sixth president.[20] She has served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2005.[21]

In 2018, she was nominated by President Trump to serve as one of two members of the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission.[22]

In March 2019, she was appointed to the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), which was set up by Google to advise on the ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence.[23] Her appointment proved controversial, with some employees of Google protesting.[24] On April 5, 2019, it was reported that Google had disbanded the ATEAC after more than 2,380 employees at Google signed a petition asking that James be removed from it. The petition signers stated that "James' positions on transgender and immigrant rights should have disqualified her from weighing in on AI ethics."[25]

James resigned from the Heritage Foundation in 2021.[4]

James later served as co-chair of Governor-elect Youngkin's transition steering committee and was appointed by Youngkin as secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia in January 2022.[26]

Personal life and honorsEdit

James is the mother of three grown children[27] and the wife of Charles E. James, Sr., who was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs from 2001 to 2009 during the administration of George W. Bush.[28]

In 2004, James was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.[29]

James was named one of the Library of Virginia's Virginia Women in History in 2018.[30][31]


  • James, Kay; Jacquelline Cobb, Fuller (1993). Never Forget. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0310482000.
  • James, Kay; Jacquelline Cobb, Fuller (1995). Kay James. Today's Heroes Series. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-49631-4.
  • James, Kay; Kuo, David (1995). Transforming America: From the Inside Out. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-48440-5.
  • James, Kay (2001). What I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Married. Multnomah Publishers. ISBN 1-57673-781-0.


  1. ^ "Kay Coles James". nndb.com.
  2. ^ McCaskill, Nolan (December 19, 2017). "Heritage Foundation taps Kay Coles James to be next president". Politico. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  3. ^ Scott, Eugene. "Powerful pro-Trump think tank names first black female president". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Kay James, prominent Black conservative voice, resigns from Heritage Foundation". reuters.com. Reuters. 2021-03-22. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  5. ^ Fadulu, Lola (December 15, 2018). "The First Black Woman to Lead the Heritage Foundation". The Atlantic.
  6. ^ "Kay Coles James: Executive Profile & Biography - Businessweek". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  7. ^ "The Gloucester Institute". The Gloucester Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  8. ^ Smith, Tammie (February 6, 2002). "Kay Coles James". Richmond Times Dispatch. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  9. ^ "FCPS Resolution commending Kay Coles James (PDF)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-10-07. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Kay James". U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  11. ^ "MENTOR promotes, advocates and is a resource for mentoring".
  12. ^ "Kay James: Executive Profile". Business Week. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012.
  13. ^ a b c Savage, Charlie (April 8, 2007). "Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-04-08.
  14. ^ Krugman, Paul (April 13, 2007). "For God's Sake". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  15. ^ Moyers, Bill (May 11, 2007). "Bill Moyers Journal Transcript". PBS. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
  16. ^ Lithwick, Dahlia (April 8, 2007). "Justice's Holy Hires". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  17. ^ Cohen, Andrew (April 9, 2007). "The Gutting Of The Justice Department". CBS News. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  18. ^ "Governor-Elect • Bob McDonnell Transition". Archived from the original on 2009-11-08. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  19. ^ "Governor names five to VCU's board of visitors | Richmond Times-Dispatch". www2.timesdispatch.com. Archived from the original on 21 July 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  20. ^ "The Heritage Foundation Names Kay Coles James New President". Heritage Foundation.
  21. ^ "Board of Trustees". The Heritage Foundation.
  22. ^ www.whitehouse.gov
  23. ^ "An external advisory council to help advance the responsible development of AI". Google blogs. 26 March 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  24. ^ "Inside the Google employee backlash against the Heritage Foundation". The Verge. April 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  25. ^ Birnbaum, Emily (2019-04-04). "Google disbands AI ethics board following pushback". TheHill. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  26. ^ "Youngkin appoints Kay Coles James as secretary of the commonwealth". The Roanoke Times. January 7, 2022.
  27. ^ "U.S. Office of Government Ethics -". usoge.gov. Archived from the original on 2006-09-25. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  28. ^ "www.linkedin/in/cejsr". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  29. ^ Incorporated, Prime. "National Academy of Public Administration". National Academy of Public Administration. Retrieved 2023-03-06.
  30. ^ "Virginia Women in History 2018 Kay Coles James". www.lva.virginia.gov. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  31. ^ "Kay Coles James". Retrieved 16 August 2022.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth