James Douglas McGinnis, 77, of Dover, died Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.
Friends of the late James Douglas McGinnis, 77, of Dover, may attend the celebration of a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 27, at the Church of the Holy Cross, 631 S. State St., Dover.
Mr. McGinnis died following a short battle with cancer, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, at his home.
Born Jan. 11, 1932, in Chicago, he was the son of the late Philip Aloysius McGinnis and Evelyn Mousel McGinnis. His father died when Mr. McGinnis was 13, and the family moved to Baltimore with his stepfather, Walter Minahan.
Mr. McGinnis worked various jobs in the Baltimore area, apprenticing as a butcher. Employed by the Canteen Corporation, he and his wife moved to Kent County in 1954. He worked for Kirby & Holloway Provision Company in Harrington, selling pork products for Russell Kirby, which led to a lifelong interest in standardbred horse racing.
Investing $300, he bought Babb’s Grocery on East Division Street, which would become known as the first of the McGinnis’ Markets, later E Z Marts, in 1958, falling back on experience as a butcher. The meat department at the store rivaled the larger grocery store chains of the day. He greeted every customer from behind the meat counter, making many friends.
With partners Ray Book and Bill Courtney, the grocery store chain grew, with locations in and around Dover, Little Creek, Smyrna, Delaware City and Ocean City, Md.
McGinnis’ Markets sponsored teams in Little League, Pop Warner, and CYO, and Mr. McGinnis contributed and worked on numerous charitable endeavors including Kent County SPCA, American Heart Association, and many others.
Mr. McGinnis was elected to the Delaware House of Representatives in 1962, and the Delaware Senate in 1964. As a freshman senator, he was named chair of the Executive and Miscellaneous Committees, and named to the Finance, Education, Banking and Insurance, Corporations–Private, Revised Statutes and Public Lands Committees. No freshman senator ever had been named to all of the Senate’s important committees, according to newspaper accounts at the time.
He obtained his real estate salesperson license in 1964, and joined Lloyd Spence in the brokerage business. He continued to grow the convenience store chain, sold real estate with Nathan L Cohen and Nate Cohen Realty, and through his friendship with Dave Buckson joined the Delaware Standardbred Owner’s Association in representing standardbred trainers and drivers. In 1965, the Dover Junior Chamber of Commerce named him Young Man of the Year.
Mr. McGinnis lost his Senatorial re–election bid in 1966 to Andy Foltz, who also prevailed in 1968. He returned to the House of Representatives in 1972, and was re–elected in 1974. He was elected House Majority Leader in 1975 upon the retirement of John Ferguson.
He also obtained his Delaware Real Estate Broker’s License in 1975, and together with Cohen developed, re–developed, and brokered numerous properties in the Dover area, including Bay Court Plaza, Smyrna Mart Shopping Center, and brokering the land for the Dover Mall.
Mr. McGinnis ran against Foltz and was elected lieutenant governor in 1976. Each was proud to observe that they lost only three elections between them in 11 campaigns, and to each other.
Mr. McGinnis and his partners sold the convenience store chain in 1975, and settled into the real estate brokerage business, together with his duties as lieutenant governor and with DSOA.
Of all of his many legislative accomplishments, he was most proud of being declared “Gentleman Of The House” by the House of Representatives staff in 1974. In 1980 he chose not to run for re–election and refused to run against Gov. Pete DuPont, deciding instead to retire from public life.
Besides the chain of grocery stores, and the real estate developments, Mr. McGinnis brought H.A. Winston’s restaurant to Downtown Dover, and later opened the HMS Bounty Crabhouse in Rehoboth Beach with his son, Jim. He was invited by Nate Cohen to partner in Nate Cohen Realty in the early 1970s. They eventually changed the name to Alpha Real Estate Company, to be first listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory, and moved to the corner of Route 13 and Loockerman Street in 1978, where McGinnis’s brokerage is currently located.
Cohen sold his interest in Alpha in 1983, moved to re–open Nate Cohen Realty, and McGinnis obtained a Realty World franchise. McGinnis switched to the Coldwell Banker franchise in 1988, and finally settled in 1992 on McGinnis Commercial Real Estate Company, which brokers, manages, and develops primarily non–residential properties.
Mr. McGinnis earned the Certified Commercial–Investment Member designation from the National Association of Realtors in 1987, and required his sales agents to seek that designation, taking the education classes and participating in the programs, believing that the program enhanced their professional abilities. He also earned the Certified Real Estate Broker designation from NAR. He earned his 40–Year Realtor pin in 2004, and earned Realtor Emeritus status at NAR in 2005.
Besides sponsoring youth sports teams, he worked on the committee that built the new Church of the Holy Cross in Dover, he served on the Delaware Real Estate Commission, and he was most proud of his time spent on the Downtown Dover Development Corporation.
He was very proud of the Dover community and Kent County, and believed he could not work hard enough to repay the community for the opportunities provided him.
Mr. McGinnis was a National Guard veteran, serving three years in Maryland and seven in Delaware.
Mr. McGinnis is survived by his wife, the former Mary Jane Richards, whom he married in August 1951 in Baltimore; two sons and a daughter-in-law, Philip Joseph and Pamela McGinnis of Dover and James Edward McGinnis of Deptford, N.J.; a daughter and son-in-law, Donna Marie and Daniel McKamy of Simpsonville, S.C.; and five grandchildren Kelly Bynum, Meredith McGinnis, and Sarah, Mary Katherine and Andrew McKamy.
A private interment is planned.
Arrangements are by Michael Ambruso Funeral Director Inc., Dover.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Mr. McGinnis’ name may be sent to the Delaware Hospice, 911 S. DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901; or the Church of the Holy Cross, 631 S. State St., Dover, DE 19901.