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James  Augustus  McCloskey, Jr.

Obituary for James Augustus McCloskey, Jr.

June 25, 1936 - August 30, 2017
San Antonio, Texas | Age 81


James Augustus McCloskey, Jr, died August 30, 2017 at age 81 at home in Grey Forest, TX. He was born Robert McCloskey at Robert B. Green Hospital in San Antonio, June 25, 1936 to James Augustus McCloskey, MD, and Marian Rebecca Koehler McCloskey. His name was changed to honor his father, who was killed in WWII in the Philippines, where the family was stationed prior to the war. While there, he contracted polio at age five which left him with a facial paralysis that gave him such an endearing smile. Jim was reared in San Antonio by his mother and grandparents. He is an alumnus of San Antonio Jefferson High Class of 1953, Trinity University, San Antonio Class of 1957, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Class of 1963. Jim participated in ROTC in Junior High, High School and College and served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army (Chemical Corps) engaging in chemical research at the U. S. Army Biological Laboratories in Ft. Detrick, Md. from 1958-60.

Upon graduation from MIT he received a National Institutes of Health (U.S. Public Health Service) Postdoctoral Fellowship to study at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Gif-sur-Yvette, France (1963-4). Upon returning from France and after a short stay at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, he held a professorship at Baylor College of Medicine from 1964 - 1974. During that period, he took a sabbatical leave at the National Cancer Center Research Institute in Tokyo.

In 1974 Jim moved his research efforts to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He was a tenured professor in the College of Pharmacy, and Department of Biochemistry, University of Utah School of Medicine. The University of Utah awarded him the Distinguished Research Award in 1989 and he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received many awards for his research. One of which he was most proud was the Award for a Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry, awarded by the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) in 2005. Jim was one of the early leaders and officers of the ASMS.

His MIT graduate research thesis, Mass Spectra of Compounds of Biological Interest, led to a 44-year career in Mass Spectrometry. One of many tributes to him stated that he was being "honored for his fundamental contributions to the analysis of nucleic acids and modified RNA. In the 1960's, he remained focused on the analysis of nucleic acids and modified RNA, contributing over 200 publications on this subject." It further stated that "his work identifying modified nucleosides in RNAs is coupling an understanding of the chemistry of RNA modifications with the underlying biology. It is rare to identify an individual as the undisputed leader in the practice of mass spectrometry in a particular field. More importantly, he has shown, by example, the power of a focused research program in mass spectrometry and how this can drive a long-term career. He has provided the mass spectrometry and biological communities with a wealth of understanding, tools, methods, and creative leadership."

He retired from the University of Utah in 2007 as Professor Emeritus. The American Chemical Society, Chemical Heritage Foundation has published an oral history of Jim's career that may be viewed online at:

His death brings sadness and a sense of great loss to family, friends, students and everyone who knew him. His quick wit, laugh, understanding and compassion made him beloved to all who knew and worked with him. He had a love of wine, good food, travel, camping, and picnicking in the Utah canyons. His favorite evening ritual was to enjoy a glass of wine on the balcony watching for the "green flash" as the sun went down over the Great Salt Lake and listening to the music of Philip Glass. Many blue jays in the area missed their daily peanuts after he moved away. He was modest about his accomplishments and few knew that as a teenager he taught dancing at the Bud Nash School of Dance in San Antonio.

He is predeceased by his parents and grandparents, Judge Augustus and Katherine Salter McCloskey and Archibald Conrad and Florence Magill Koehler.

Jim is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 57 years Kathleen McCary McCloskey; children: Lydia McCloskey (Philip Hampton), James Augustus (Gus) McCloskey III (Hisayo), Madeline McCloskey, Alexander O'Brien McCloskey; grandchildren: Ciara and Conor McCary, Asako, Meiko and Manabu McCloskey and Rebecca Jane and Andrew James McCloskey. Special friends include Pamela Crain, Jonathan Leeper, Hilda Mendoza, Dahlia VIllegas, Brad Nettle, and Tuffy. Many thanks over the years to John Galan, MD, Thomas Weiss, MD and Liz Blair at River City Hospice.

Even though a member of Forest Hills Presbyterian Church, he will be remembered along with others at noon on September 30th in a service held by River City Hospice at St. Brigid's Catholic Church in San Antonio.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to Trinity University to provide scholarship assistance to an advanced chemistry student enrolled at Trinity University. Send gifts to Trinity University, One Trinity Place #49, San Antonio, TX 78212-7200. Please note on your gift; "In memory of James A. McCloskey" For online contributions go to please choose the box below for Gift in honor of someone and place his name in the "memory" box.

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  • In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to Trinity University to provide scholarship assistance to an advanced chemistry student enrolled at Trinity University. Send gifts to Trinity University, One Trinity Place #49, San Antonio, TX 78212-7200. Pleas

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