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James M. Webster Jr.

Co-captain of 1959 Hopkins national champion lacrosse team became involved in U.S. Lacrosse Foundation

By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

5:37 PM EDT, September 24, 2012

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James McCormick "Mickey" Webster Jr., an outstanding lacrosse attackman who was co-captain of the 1959 Johns Hopkins University national championship team and later became an insurance and financial planning executive, died Friday of pancreatic cancer at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson. He was 75.

"Mickey was an exalted figure in the game. There are All-Americans every year who deserve it, but he was more than just an All-American, he was one of lacrosse's greats," said Bill Tanton, former longtime sports editor of The Evening Sun.

"When it comes to feeding, his name is synonymous with the great Hopkins teams of the late 1950s. He was the feeder and William K. 'Billy' Morrill Jr. was the scorer," said Mr. Tanton. "Mickey was a very fine gentleman, well-liked, and never got far away from lacrosse, which remained the centerpiece of his life."

The son of an insurance salesman and a woman's clothing sales associate, James McCormick Webster Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised on West Lafayette Avenue on Bolton Hill.

Mr. Webster was a 1955 graduate of Boys' Latin School, where he lettered in three sports and was lacrosse team captain his senior year. He also earned a C. Markland Kelly Award that year as an outstanding area high school player.

Mr. Webster "achieved his greatest success in high school lacrosse — was a master in all phases of close attack play, feeding, dodging, shooting, riding and retrieving ground balls," according to an Evening Sun article at the time.

At Hopkins, Mr. Webster — who made first team All-American for three of his varsity years — teamed with Mr. Morrill in creating what was described as a "well-oiled machine."

They led Hopkins to a national championship in 1956 and to an unbeaten season the following year. Mr. Webster was co-captain of the 1959 national championship team.

"I've never seen a pair of attackmen on the same team like those," Jack Faber, who was the University of Maryland lacrosse coach, told The Baltimore Sun in a 1957 interview. "I guess we saw everything they had. If they've got more, I don't want to see it."

After leaving Hopkins in 1959, Mr. Webster played for eight more years with the Baltimore Lacrosse Club and the University Club.

Mr. Webster, who was selected as a member of the All-Time Johns Hopkins Lacrosse Team, spent the last 40 years as an active member of the U.S. Lacrosse Foundation.

He had served as a member of the board of the U.S. Lacrosse Foundation from 1983 to 1985, and led the capital fundraising effort that resulted in the construction of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame on University Parkway, next to Homewood Field, where he had experienced some of his greatest triumphs as a player.

The facility was opened in 1990 and expanded in 1997, when it became headquarters for U.S. Lacrosse, the sport's national governing body. In 2004, in recognition of his numerous contributions to the sport, he was presented the William H. "Dinty" Moore III Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Lacrosse Foundation.

Inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1978, Mr. Webster was also a member of the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame, Johns Hopkins University Hall of Fame, and Boys' Latin School Hall of Fame.

Professionally, Mr. Webster spent more than 40 years in the field of financial planning and insurance. He worked briefly for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. and then joined National Life Insurance Co. of Vermont.

He later was the Maryland representative for Fiduciary Counsel Inc. before being appointed manager of trust development for the Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co. He subsequently worked for First Federated Life Insurance Co. and Mass Mutual Life Insurance Co. before founding what became Webster & Co. in 1975.

"He worked for me for 15 years at Mass Mutual," said George Boynton of Baltimore. "He was always one of our top agents for years. His real strength was that he never pushed clients and always asked the right questions in order to establish the need of the products we were selling."

Carolyn Johnson worked as Mr. Webster's administrative assistant at the firm for 27 years, until he retired in 2004.

"He was wonderful to work for, and what first struck me was the total integrity of his business model. He always did what was best for his clients," said Ms. Johnson. "He always made sure that clients got what they needed."

She described Mr. Webster as a "very warm person" who was "beloved in the insurance community. And it is quite shocking to lose him."

An accomplished musician, Mr. Webster played the baritone ukulele and for years had been a member of the Paint and Powder Club and appeared in their annual productions. For more than 25 years, he performed for residents of area nursing homes and retirement communities.

Mr. Webster served on the boards of Boys' Latin, Paint and Powder, and the Baltimore Country Club.

Mr. Webster, who had lived on Charlesmead Road in North Baltimore, enjoyed vacationing in Melvin Village, N.H., where he was a member of the Bald Peak Colony Club.

Mr. Webster was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Surviving are his wife of 52 years, the former Nancy Jane Menton; three sons, James M. Webster III and John M. Webster, both of Baltimore, and Edwin H. Webster of San Rafael, Calif.; a daughter, Peggy W. Tomick of Phoenix, Baltimore County; a brother, Richard E. Webster of Timonium; a sister, Mary W. Wigglesworth of Baltimore; and nine grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com