James B. Donovan

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James Britt Donovan (February 19, 1916 – January 19, 1970) was an American lawyer and Commander in the United States Navy Reserve.

Donovan was born in The Bronx, New York, the son of Hattie F. O'Connor, a piano teacher, and John D. Donovan, a surgeon.[1] He negotiated deals with Fidel Castro for the release of prisoners captured during the Bay of Pigs invasion, as well as with the Soviet government for the release of captured U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers, winning the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.[2]

Donovan was an assistant trial counsel in the Nuremberg Trials,[3] and presented at the trial filmed evidence of Nazi abuses against the Jews.[4] In 1962, Donovan was the Kennedy-backed Democratic candidate for a Senate seat in the state of New York against Jacob Javits.[2] In 1967, he published his second book "Challenge". A lifelong interest in the arts led to Jim Donovan becoming President of the New York art school; Pratt Institute. He served as the school's president from 1968, during the student uprisings period until his death in 1970.[5]

It was recently announced that Steven Spielberg is planning to direct a film about Donovan's negotiations for Powers' release. Touchstone Pictures will release the film on October 16, 2015, and Tom Hanks will star as Donovan.[6]



  • Bigger, Philip J. (2006). NEGOTIATOR: The Life And Career of James B. Donovan. Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press. United States. ISBN 978-0-934-22385-0.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert F. Wagner, Jr.
Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senator from New York (Class 3)
Succeeded by
Paul O'Dwyer