JAMES DICKEY THORNTON JR., 83, of Charleston, S.C., a lawyer, died Sunday in Charleston, due to heart failure and complications following a recent surgery. He was the husband of Dorothy Sue Hay Thornton of Charleston. They had been married for 53 years. Born May 6, 1921, in Providence, a son of the late James Dickey Thornton Sr. and Gladys (Taber) Thornton, he moved to Rock Hill, S.C., in 1929. He was a 1938 graduate of the Winthrop Training School. He graduated from the Citadel in 1942 and entered the Army as a second lieutenant in the 12th Combat Engineer Battalion of the 8th Infantry Division. He was released from the Army in 1945 as a captain. He entered the University of South Carolina School of Law, and graduated in 1948, becoming a member of the South Carolina Bar and the Rhode Island Bar. Mr. Thornton was in private practice in Westerly until the Korean War, when he was recalled to active duty to serve at Fort Belvoir, Va. He was discharged from the Army in 1952 and returned to Westerly to practice law with Judge John Ferguson. until the judge’s retirement in 1958. He was then joined in partnership by his brother, William B. Thornton, until his retirement in 1990. The firm specialized in real estate, estate planning, probate and tax law. An active member of the local business and legal communities, Mr. Thornton acted as town solicitor from 1956 to 1959, and served as clerk and solicitor of the Watch Hill Fire District, and solicitor of the Dunns Corners Fire District, Quonochontaug Central Beach, and Shady Harbor Fire Districts. He enjoyed a long-standing business relationship with the Washington Trust Company, and served more than 30 years on its board of directors. He also served on the boards of directors of numerous local business and charitable organizations, including Westerly Hospital, the Westerly Public Library, the Westerly Pawcatuck YMCA, the American Red Cross and the Central Baptist Church. He was also involved in local social organizations, including the Lions Club, the Franklin Lodge of Masons and the Watch Hill Yacht Club, where he served on the race committee and was secretary of the board of directors. A former president of the Washington County Bar Association, he also served as a member of the house of delegates and the probate committee of the Rhode Island Bar Association. He received many professional designations, including being named a fellow of the Rhode Island Bar Association and a fellow of the American College of Probate Counsel. He was a member of the Central Baptist Church of Westerly, and First Scots Presbyterian Church in Charleston, and was an active member of the Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston. He was also a photography and sailing enthusiast. He leaves a daughter, Sue Hay Thornton of Charleston; a son, James Dickey Thornton III of Windsor, Conn.; a brother, William B. Thornton of Charleston; a sister, Joanne T. Baldwin of Stonington, Conn.; and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at First Scots Presbyterian Church, Charleston, S.C. Another memorial service will be held later this summer at the Watch Hill Chapel.
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