Buoyed by fond memories of his fellowship experience, Dr. James began envisioning the benefits a cancer hospital could bring to Ohio and the Midwest. Over the years, various obstacles dampened but never doused his dream.
In 1954 he became medical director of the Columbus Cancer Clinic, which appointed a committee to look into establishing an inpatient cancer facility. Three years later, the Clinic created a hospital fund of $100,000 from transferred memorial monies, and in 1962 it proposed creation of a cancer hospital to the Mid-Ohio Health Planning Federation. But the Federation rejected the idea in favor of applying available funds toward additional hospital beds that were needed for routine patient care.
Over the next decade, Dr. James' prominence continued to grow through his skills as a cancer surgeon and his selection as president of Head and Neck Surgeons (1967-68), of the Society of Surgical Oncology (1970-71) and, ultimately, of the American Cancer Society (1972-73).
With his dream still simmering, he resumed his efforts to bring a cancer hospital to Columbus in 1974, but once again he faced defeat as voters a year later rejected a bond issue that would have raised funds for the project.
A turning point came in 1976 when the National Cancer Institute designated The Ohio State University as a Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) - a leader in cancer research clinically applied to patient care. OSU was one of fewer than 20 CCCs in the nation at that time.
Riding on the prestige this designation brought to the University, Dr. James presented his dream of a cancer hospital for Columbus to a group of influential community leaders and asked for their support. Several accompanied him on a visit to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York to see firsthand the benefits that could be derived from such facilities. Together these leaders formed the Ohio Cancer Foundation, which backed the idea of a local cancer facility.
Aware of growing local support, the Ohio Legislature in 1981 passed a $40 million appropriation for construction of a cancer hospital; Ohio State contributed another $14 million. Ground was broken in 1984. Three years later the cornerstone was set and the hospital was named for Dr. James at a formal dedication ceremony.
Midway through construction, Dr. James reflected on what was about to be. "In making early morning patient rounds," he wrote, "I usually pass a large window through which I can see the construction site. On a morning when the sun is just beginning to rise, the Institute makes a very impressive picture. It is obvious that a new day is dawning."
But fate wasn't finished. In December 1989, three weeks before the new hospital was scheduled to open, a water line on the 13th floor froze and broke. Water cascaded down through the fully furnished facility, flooding the floors and converting the building's exterior, by many personal accounts, into a giant icicle. The resulting damages, estimated at $2.4 million, delayed the hospital opening by six months, but Dr. James was characteristically unperturbed. He knew it would open eventually.