James Webb Huston, age 62, passed away peacefully on April 14, 2016 at UCSD’s Thornton Hospital. He was surrounded by his family. Jim was born on October 26, 1953 in West Lafayette, Indiana to James and Florence Huston. Jim was a loving husband, son, brother, father of five, grandfather of three, and friend to many. Jim attended New Life Presbyterian Church for 30 years where he was a member, ruling elder, teacher, and leader to many. His profound Christian faith was immensely important to him. A true Renaissance Man: he practiced law, wrote nine best-selling action novels, was an active musician, a patriot and a scholar of American history, especially of World War II. His sharp wit and infectious humor endeared him to all who knew him. His warrior spirit, dogged determination to live life to the fullest, and abiding faith were profoundly inspirational.
Jim Huston attended the University of South Carolina on a Navy ROTC scholarship, majoring in history, with a minor in English. He did an exchange cruise on a French Navy destroyer, and also attended the University of Warwick in England to study English Reformation history and English literature. After college he flew F-14 fighter jets with VF-84, the Jolly Rogers, on the USS Nimitz. As a dashing young fighter pilot, Jim swept Dianna off her feet and married her when she was just 19. While in the Jolly Rogers, he participated in making the movie “The Final Countdown,” filming several scenes with a Panavision camera in the back seat of the F-14. He did two Mediterranean cruises and other cruises to the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. He graduated from TOPGUN before his second cruise. After his tour with VF-84, Huston taught Seapower and Maritime Affairs at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. He left active duty to attend the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he continued flying in the Navy Reserves, ultimately transferring to Naval Intelligence.
In 1984, Jim and his family moved to San Diego where he joined one of California’s top law firms, Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye as a civil trial lawyer where he was elected to the partnership in 1990. Jim handled aviation, product liability, personal injury, commercial, and insurance cases. When the Gray Cary firm merged with Ware & Freidenrich in 1994, Jim’s natural leadership abilities earned him the position of national chair of the firm’s Tort and Product Liability Practice. In 2004, Jim joined the San Diego office of Morrison & Foerster where he continued his distinguished trial practice and served as worldwide chair of the firm’s Trial Practice Group.
Jim was highly regarded for his legal talent. He was an Associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates, one of the leading trial lawyer professional organizations. He was recognized in numerous prestigious professional publications including Chambers USA for his work in aviation litigation, Best Lawyers in America for his product liability litigation, Law360 as one of the “Ten Most Admired Product Liability Attorneys” in the country, and Legal 500 US as a leading product liability lawyer in pharmaceutical, medical device, aerospace, and consumer products. Most important to those who had the privilege to work with him, Jim not only practiced at the pinnacle of his profession, but he was generous with his time in mentoring and teaching younger lawyers their craft. He was a frequent writer and speaker on aviation and pharmaceutical product litigation and trial practice. He will be remembered by his colleagues who miss him deeply as a charismatic trial lawyer, caring mentor, consummate professional and the best partner his partners could have had.
Jim’s writing career started in the form of op-eds for the San Diego Union-Tribune, covering current affairs topics. After he decided to try fiction, neither his first novel nor his second were accepted for publication. He went through several hundred rejection letters, and labored almost every night for five years before getting published. His first published novel, Balance of Power, explored themes that would form the basis of all his later novels: politics, law, and military action. His second published work, Price of Power, was a New York Times Bestseller. While working on his third book, Jim was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He had a couple of very difficult years until he received a bone marrow transplant from his sister Nita, yet during that time he published five books in five years. He fought on through countless therapies and a second bone marrow transplant, and although his rate of publication slowed down his last novel was published in 2015. He left us with a new novel in the works, and several more in the planning stages. Jim also had a budding television career: CBS Television bought his idea for a series based on crash investigations, and he performed as on-air commentator through 36 episodes of various shows on The Military Channel and The Science Channel.
He was a devoted husband for 36 years, a dad to five children and their spouses/fiances — Stephanie and Martin Lim, Paul Huston and fiancé, Marilu Choi, Shannon and Jody Rouse, Colleen and Mitchell Dong, and Scott and Kari Huston. He was a doting grandfather to three — Connor Lim, Noah Lim and Levi Rouse. Jim is also survived by his sister Nita Woodruff, by his father James A. Huston, and his stepmother Anne Huston. Jim is preceded in death by his mother, Florence Huston.
Jim loved music, playing in a rock band and leading worship on Sundays, and attending concerts with his family. He also loved the outdoors, especially golfing with his sons and fly fishing the waters of the Eastern Sierra. As often as he could, right up until days before he passed away, Jim enjoyed running or hiking with his beloved wife, his buddies and his Labrador Retrievers on the trails by Lake Hodges.
Jim’s family wishes to extend a special message of appreciation and gratitude to the entire cancer care staff at UCSD Moores Cancer Center and Thornton Hospital.
Jim’s Memorial Service
April 30th at 2:00 pm
New Life Presbyterian Church
615 W. Citracado Parkway, Escondido, CA 92025