James Joseph Shannon Jr. passes away

James Shannon
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James Joseph Shannon Jr., an Examiner staff member for nearly a decade and the original editor of the Beaumont Business Journal, died Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, after suffering a heart attack. He was 63 years old.

James was born Nov. 25, 1952, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to James and Shirley Kilpatrick Shannon. The eldest of eight children, he was known as “Jim” among family members. 

James was preceded in death by his wife, Susie LeBlanc Shannon, second wife Linda Cobb Shannon, his father, and his brother, Charles. His survivors include fiancée Courtney Gobel; stepdaughter Athena Vasquez;  sisters Cynthia Davis (Bill), Ann Falloure (Jack) and Betsy Bales (Malcolm); brothers John Shannon (Tiffany), Patrick Shannon (Nastasya) and T. Sean Shannon (Kitty); and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

James grew up in Houston after his dad was transferred there with NASA. A child of the ’60s, he was infamous at Milby Park, Pacifica Radio Station, and Space City News. While still in high school, he wrote for the Little Red Schoolhouse, an underground newspaper for the younger audience. He was a voracious reader, writer and debater. He worked for the City of Houston for almost 20 years, creating many informational campaigns for the Health and Human Services department. He would work in politics, on campaigns for local politicians, in media, creating videos for aspiring college athletes, weddings, reunions and other events.

In January 1987, James was selected for the jury for the trial of Pennzoil vs. Texaco. The trial would be a landmark decision, and Jim was considered to be the lynchpin juror in the decision. He would write a book, “Texaco and the $10 billion Jury,” which sold over 50,000 copies and led to speaking engagements around the country.

In 1998, he lost his wife and best friend, Susie. They met in July 1969 on the day Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. They would be together for 29 years through many adventures. They married in 1974 and helped raise two children, Christina Sandrock and Juan Hernandez.

In 1999, he married Linda and moved to Greenville, South Carolina. There he wrote for the alternative newspaper, The Beat. He enjoyed getting to know the town where Albert Einstein had lived and learning the politics and local color of the area. Linda died of cancer in 2003.

In 2004, he married Amber Vasquez and helped raise her daughter, Athena. He enjoyed watching Athena experience the world as she grew; they were best buds. He cherished any time he spent with Athena. They returned to Texas, where Jim would be a writer and editor for The Examiner, and the first editor of the Beaumont Business Journal, an Examiner Corp. publication that James helped develop in advance of its launch in December 2009. 

Jim thrived on the local politics, and culture of the area, writing local interest stories as well as his usual political beat. 

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said that, as a seasoned journalist, Shannon possessed a rare gift – the ability to succinctly, accurately and eloquently explain complex subjects in a way readers could comprehend. 

“His reporting was always spot-on. He was always able to understand and distill down what I was saying.”

James was also a regular contributor and panelist on the local TV talk show Southeast Texas Weekly.

Over the years, James wrote and received awards for his work with many papers, beginning with Little Red Schoolhouse in the 1960s and ending with The Examiner. As a journalist, he interviewed many prominent people, including Barack Obama, Jessie Jackson, B.B. King and Donald Trump. He loved the news business and the people he met through it.

For two years in a row, James won the National Newspaper Association first place award in the Best Environmental Story category (circulation 6,000 or more) for his environmental coverage in The Examiner, as well as consecutive first place NNA awards in the Health category. 

James also won many Press Club of Southeast Texas awards, including a first place for one of his many insightful editorials in The Examiner, which he continued to write even after moving into semi-retirement. Right up until his sudden and unexpected death, he worked freelance for The Examiner, covering Jefferson County criminal courts. 

Jim met his fiancée Courtney in 2014. They have been companions and support for each other as they worked for a fresh start.

A memorial service for James Shannon was held Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Rao’s Bakery on Dowlen Road in Beaumont.

Donations in Jim’s memory may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 1701 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria, VA 22311.