James Paul Donahue, Jr.

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Jimmy Donahue
Born James Paul Donahue, Jr.
June 11, 1915
Died December 6, 1966
Education High school dropout
Occupation Heir; socialite
Relatives F.W. Woolworth

James Paul Donahue, Jr. (June 11, 1915[1] – December 6, 1966),[2] known professionally as Jimmy Donahue,[2][3] was an heir to the Woolworth estate and a noted New York socialite. By some accounts, he was suspected to be gay.[4]

Background and family[edit]

Jimmy Donahue was the second son of James Paul Donahue (1887-1931), the scion of Irish American family which had made a fortune in the fat rendering business (Retail Butchers’ Fat Rendering Company), by his wife Jessie Woolworth Donahue (1886-1971), one of the three daughters of Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the Woolworth retail chain.[5] His older brother was Woolworth Donahue (1913-1972).

Donahue was the nephew of Edna Woolworth (1883–1917), a wealthy socialite[6] and a nephew by marriage of Franklyn Laws Hutton (1877–1940), a co-founder of the brokerage firm E. F. Hutton & Co.. He was also the first cousin and confidante of the American socialite Barbara Hutton (1912 – 1979),


Donahue was a high school dropout. He initially attended the Hun School at Princeton, NJ, and after his parents were advised to remove him from there, he was shifted to Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. However, he was expelled from that school at age 17. Following his expulsion from Choate he took tap dance lessons with the tap dance master Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.[7]


Having been born into a wealthy family, Donahue never felt the need to earn a living, and indeed he lived lavishly, travelling the world with a valet in tow and staying at the most expensive hotels.[8] He was known within his circle by the nickname "Jeem".[9] He is buried in the Woolworth Family Mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.[1]

Claimed affair with Wallis, Duchess of Windsor[edit]

Donahue claimed he had had a four year affair with Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, the wife of the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII. This fact is endorsed by Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Earl Mountbatten of Burma and a cousin of the Duke of Windsor.[10]


  1. ^ a b Find-a-grave
  2. ^ a b http://www.paulbowles.org/photosjanebowles.html
  3. ^ Wilson, Christopher (2001), Dancing with the Devil: The Windsors and Jimmy Donahue, London: St. Martin's Press, pp. 22–45, ISBN 0-312-27204-9 
  4. ^ http://www.sgn.org/sgnnews34_01/page16.cfm
  5. ^ Wilson 2001, p. 16
  6. ^ New York Times, May 3, 1917
  7. ^ Wilson 2001, pp. 16, 39–51
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Wilson 2001
  10. ^ Interview with Pamela Hicks

Further reading[edit]

  • Charles Higham. The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. 482 pp 1988: 370-2, 394-5.