The Trusted Adviser
December 2015 | Volume 8 · Number 10


In Memoriam

James J. Elson - ATG Founding Member, Director Emeritus; August 5, 1931 – November 9, 2015

ATG recently said goodbye to a founding member and longtime board member, James J. Elson, 84, of Canton, Illinois. Jim joined ATG in 1964; as one of a handful of founding members, Jim was also an early leader who helped get a fledgling organization off the ground. The 2003 letter to ATG members in our annual report from then Chairman Jim Molenaar said it best:

Forty years ago, [ATG] was a gleam in the eye of Stan Balbach, our founder, along with a few strong supporters. Several attorneys are almost legendary in their support of ATG. People like Dick Hart, John Satter, Jim Elson, and Ed Moehle. Forgive me for omitting so many others who should be included in this group. These were men of singular vision. They saw the erosion of the lawyer's role in real estate transactions in the 1960s and they knew it would ultimately harm consumers and lawyers. Consumers would be without guidance in the single biggest financial transaction in their lives; lawyers would lose a practice area and financial return. They knew they must work to preserve both.

Jim's involvement with ATG in the early days was that of advocate, leader, and publicity coordinator. He helped tell our story, define our message, and penciled our first logo—a shield containing the scales of justice formed by the letters "ATG." He worked with the ATG Board of Directors to allocate precious dollars for print advertisements in the ISBA Journal, which Jim designed himself. In short, Jim was our very own ad man.

After serving as publicity chair, Jim was elected to the ATG Board of Directors in 1970 and served as Chairman in 1976. He continued to serve on the ATG Board for many years, retiring in 2009. Jim's son, James, who joined his dad in the family firm in the early 1990s, remains an active ATG member.

Jim attended the University of Notre Dame and graduated with a BS from the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois, then received his JD from the University of Illinois College of Law. His law career began with serving three years of active duty as a Judge Advocate (Captain) in the U.S. Air Force, following which he practiced law in Canton, both in his own firm and as City Attorney. He was active in the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), was named a Laureate of the Illinois Academy of Lawyers in 2001, served on the ISBA Board of Governors, was a trustee of the Illinois Bar Foundation, was a director of the Clients' Security Fund of the Bar of Illinois, chaired the Lawyers Political Action Committee, and served on numerous committees and sections. He helped found and is a past chairman of the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company.

In Canton, Jim was a Trustee of Canton's Parlin-Ingersoll Public Library for 32 years, President of the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce, (1970), and voted Citizen of the Year (1985). He was active in St. Mary's Church and Knights of Columbus.

ATG extends its deepest sympathy as well as heartfelt gratitude to Jim's widow, Nancy Popel Elson. They were married 61 years, had five children, twelve grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Read Jim's obituary.

Jim Elson at 50th Tailgate
At ATG's 50th Anniversary Illini Tailgate in October 2014, holding items from their collection of ATG giveaways from tailgates of yore, Jim and Nancy Elson with Mary Satter, wife of ATG Founder, John Satter. The penant is from our 25th Anniversary Illini Tailgate,  Jim's cap and the seat cushions are from the early 1980s. 

Jim Elson and wife Nancy at 9/1994 retirement presentation
In 1994, we presented Jim with framed mini-versions of the display ads he created in the early days. The keepsake hung in his office in Canton until his retirement in 2009.

Jim Elson speaks at 1976 Annual Shareholders' Meeting
Jim served as ATG's Board Chairman in 1976.

[Last update: 12-2-15]

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