Official Obituary of

Dr. James Ralph O'Rourke, Jr.

November 14, 1939 ~ March 8, 2024 (age 84) 84 Years Old
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Dr. James Ralph O'Rourke, Jr. Obituary


James Ralph O’Rourke, Jr., M.D.

November 14, 1939 – March 8, 2024

 James Ralph O’Rourke, Jr. was born in Tuscaloosa, AL to loving, devout-Christian parents Mr. James R. O’Rourke, Sr. and Mrs. George O’Rourke (nee Wright). During his youth, he was nurtured and educated by his parents and a large, extended-family.  Both of his parents were educators, librarians, and respected leaders in the church and the community. 

  Being raised by courageous, intelligent, hardworking parents and extended family in the Jim Crow South brought formative experiences and values that shaped James’ work ethic, innate positivity, compassion, and his belief in the American Dream and democracy. Almost losing a leg during grade school and other formative experiences inspired him to lead non-violent civil rights activities and a life of selfless service. Like other members of the Silent Generation, he never bragged, boasted, or talked about himself. Challenging experiences, like the death of his 16-year old, younger brother Reginald, did not diminish his love of people, his compassion, or his ability to establish rapport and get a laugh out of people from all walks of life.

James earned a B.S. and an M.D. from the University of Kentucky where he also completed a mixed medicine internship, a residency in internal medicine, and a pulmonology fellowship.

During the latter part of his medical education, James went on a blind date and met an intelligent, radiant, Christian, singer, ballerina and debutante named Joyce. Joyce and James wanted the date to go on forever, but James had to return to work and school in Kentucky.  They had to settle on long-distance phone calls for the next 6 months, until they could meet again in person.  On their second date, Joyce accepted James’ marriage proposal and they married on March 18, 1967.

James and Joyce moved to Hampton, VA, where he was stationed after he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as the Chief of the Allergy/Immunization Section at Langley USAF Regional Hospital. In Virginia, Joyce gave birth to their first child Reginald. While there, they intentionally integrated a housing complex by becoming the first African-Americans to reside there and they made life-long friends in Dr. Michael and Brigette Hamilton. Later, the Hamiltons encouraged and helped them move to Chapel Hill, NC upon James’ honorable discharge from the Air Force.

In Chapel Hill, Joyce gave birth to their wonderful, artistic daughter Diane. James profoundly loved Joyce, Diane, and Reggie. In Reggie and Diane, he instilled the importance of honesty, hard work, service, and treating everyone with the utmost dignity and respect.

He and Joyce moved the family to Raleigh so that he could open his own medical practice. In Raleigh, they were blessed to be neighbors with the van Doornewaard and Waugaman families. Hans van Doornewaard was James’ best friend for two decades until Hans’ death.  The van Doornewaards remained lifelong friends. In Raleigh, he eventually befriended and practiced medicine with his friend and business partner Dr. Grace Rose.

James practiced medicine in almost every professional capacity. Among his fondest memories was serving the Durham community as Chief Internist and Director of Clinical Services at Lincoln Community Health Center. He relished teaching medical students through his faculty appointments at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and the Duke University Medical Center and he selflessly served patients for over 30 years in private practice, while his entire medical career spanned almost 50 years. 

He has an extensive list of accomplishments, awards, recognitions, and memberships in professional organizations. There are too many to name, but they include earning the Clinical Faculty Teacher of the Year Award (Wake Medical Center & Wake AHEC), the President’s Award (Old North State Medical Society) and serving as President of the Old North State Medical Society and the L.A. Scruggs Medical Society. 

He never turned down an opportunity to help people. This led him, among other things, to give dozens of lectures on any topic requested of him, and he was even known to accept produce when patients were otherwise unable to pay. He was a beloved, trusted friend, mentor and confidante of countless friends, patients, nurses and physicians.  He was charming and dignified. He had a captivating smile and presence which radiated joy and calmness.

James was a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and he was proud to be a Charter Member of the Gamma Sigma Boulé. He treasured the time that he and Joyce spent with the Alphas, the Boulé and the Links, Inc.

He is survived by his radiant daughter Diane, his devoted son Reggie, his caring daughter-in-law Kate, his loving grandchildren Anabelle and Hans, cherished extended family, beloved friends from all walks of life and a myriad of patients who knew him as their friend.

 Memorial Service Monday March 18, 2024 at 5:00 PM in the C A Haywood, Sr. Memorial Chapel, 2415 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh, NC 27603. Prior to the service, visitation with the family is from 3:45 PM to 4:45 PM. The Omega Ritual with Gamma Sigma Boule' is from 4:45 PM to 5:00 PM.  There is no viewing.

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March 18, 2024

3:45 PM to 4:45 PM
C.A. Haywood, Sr. Memorial Chapel
2415 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27603

Omega Service
March 18, 2024

4:45 PM
C.A. Haywood, Sr. Memorial Chapel
2415 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27603

Memorial Service
March 18, 2024

5:00 PM
C.A. Haywood, Sr. Memorial Chapel
2415 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27603

Video is available for this event


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