UUA moderator Jim Key died June 2 in Savannah, Georgia, during treatment for cancer. He was 77. Key had resigned May 13 as moderator due to “significant health concerns.”
James Carty “Jim” Key was born in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1939. He met his wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Stockton Key, when they were 13. They married at 25 and enjoyed fifty-two years of marriage. Key spent thirty-five years with IBM, retiring as director of International Audit in 1996 before moving to Beaufort, South Carolina.
At 59, Key was diagnosed with lung cancer and given six months to live. During his battle with cancer, he discovered Unitarian Universalism and helped found the UU Fellowship of Beaufort. Elected by the General Assembly in 2013 as the UUA’s moderator and chief governance officer, Key presided over the Board of Trustees during the tumultuous controversy over UUA hiring practices this spring that led to the resignation of President Peter Morales and to the appointment of a three-person interim co-presidency.
“Jim was many things to us: an inspired and collaborative leader, a warm and humble colleague, an advocate for justice with respect and love for people deep in his DNA, and an evangelist for our faith,” the UUA’s Interim Co-Presidents Sofía Betancourt, William G. Sinkford, and Leon Spencer, said in a statement mourning Key.
Racial justice was central to Key’s values. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was at the forefront of providing corporate opportunities for women and people of color, according to his family. Key led the UUA Board in its historic decision to commit $5.3 million to Black Lives of UU.
As moderator, Key focused on supporting survivors of clergy sexual misconduct and working to improve the process for handling complaints of misconduct, and appointing a task force on covenanting to reimagine the relationship among UU congregations as one based on covenant.
Key also served as president of the UUA’s Southeast District, which changed its name from the Thomas Jefferson District during his tenure. He also served as chair of the UUA’s Audit Committee and member of the board task force that proposed a smaller UUA Board of Trustees and of the board’s Linkage Working Group.
A memorial service for Key was held during General Assembly 2017 in New Orleans; the UU Fellowship of Beaufort also held a celebration of his life.