Legacy of James Irvine Sr.

“Often the Best Way to Show Warm Sympathy is With Cold Cash”

James Harvey Irvine, Sr.'s father, James Irvine I, who had immigrated to America from Ireland during the potato famine, once wrote, "I tell you a boy cast upon the world with not a dollar in his pocket, with none within reach ... but absolute strangers and without ... a claim upon any of them, is in a position to appreciate the value of a helping hand."

Though the first James Irvine did indeed start out "without a dollar in his pocket," he accumulated and passed on to his son the vast acreage of the Irvine Ranch, and also left a fortune in San Francisco real estate to his wife and son. James Harvey Irvine, Sr. then developed the Southern California property into an agricultural empire which, along with the San Francisco properties, enabled him to become one of the wealthiest men in California. Hanging over a door in his office, perhaps a reflection of Irvine's understanding of his family's humble beginnings, was a large red sign that stated: "Often the best way to show warm sympathy is with cold cash."

James Harvey Irvine, Sr. was in a position to lend a helping hand to many - and many held their hands out to him. Deserving men and ideas were helped without hesitation - and without fanfare. What he did for the local good, he didn't want the public to know about. Remembering his father's considerable suffering over bad press, Irvine refused to have any conversations with newspaper reporters. Whether they intended to say something nice or bad, he wanted no publicity.