James Catherwood Hormel was born on January 1, 1933, in Austin, Minnesota, the youngest child (after George and Thomas) of Germaine and Jay Hormel and grandson of George A. Hormel, who founded the company now known as Hormel Foods.
Hormel received a B.A. in History from Swarthmore College in 1955, where he has been a member of the Board of Managers almost continuously since 1988, and where he has established a faculty chair in social justice. He received a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1958, and later was its Assistant Dean and Dean of Students. He is a life member of the Visiting Committee of the Law School, where he established a program to encourage law students to go into public service.
In 1991, Hormel donated funds to create the Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. The Center, which is named in recognition of that gift, officially opened in 1995, making available an outstanding collection of materials. During its first few months the Center was visited by people from around the world who signed the guest book, and in 2005-06, a traveling exhibit was sent on a national tour of college campuses. His community involvement and philanthropic activity have brought recognition from many organizations, such as the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association 1995 Silver Spur Award for Civic Leadership, the National Society of Fundraising Executives 1996 Outstanding Philanthropist award, and the 2001 Human Rights Campaign Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1997, after having served on two separate delegations to the United Nations, Hormel was nominated by President William Jefferson Clinton to be Ambassador to Luxembourg. The confirmation process was protracted and often contentious, including charges regarding his support of the San Francisco Public Library’s Gay and Lesbian Center and its contents. Several Senators prevented his confirmation from coming to the floor for a vote.
On June 3, 1999, President Clinton appointed Hormel to the post, making him the first openly gay United States ambassador. Hormel has five children, fourteen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He lives in San Francisco with his life partner, Michael P. Nguyen.
Contact James Hormel:
Ray Mulliner, Vice-President
19 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94104