PASADENA, CA—James K. Dunton, devoted husband, father and grandfather, executive of the Capital Group Companies, and quintessential Virginia gentleman, died in his home surrounded by his wife and children on Friday, December 23, 2022. He was 84.
Reminiscing on his life and work, he would always remark on the improbability of having received—and accepted—a job offer in the spring of 1962 from the burgeoning Capital Group Companies, at the time having only 60 or so employees. What followed was an exciting and fulfilling 50-year career with Capital, including tenures as senior vice president of Capital Research and Management and of Capital Guardian Trust Company, which he helped to found in 1969.
“I’ve been lucky my whole life,” Jim would often say. But his family, friends and colleagues are truly the lucky ones, having been the subjects of his welcoming good nature and passionate intellect. “Jim exemplified everything great in a man,” shared friend and colleague James Terrile, “devotion to family and to craft, persistence, patience, wisdom, pursuit and achievement of excellence, poise, grace under pressure and an inimitable persona that inspires me to this day.”
Jim began his career as a financial analyst but transitioned to portfolio management for Washington Mutual at a time when the mutual fund industry was still emerging. He became lead portfolio counselor of Washington Mutual Investors Fund and chairman of American Mutual Fund, but none of these titles were as important to Jim as his interpersonal relationships.
“I am much more concerned about how I think about myself in my dealings with people than any other thing,” Jim related in a late career interview. Above all, he valued his relationships—with his family, friends, colleagues and company. He always put others first and indeed is well remembered for being a true gentleman. “Over his time at the firm, Jim was an outstanding investor, a mentor to many, and a true gentleman to all,” recalls Tim Armour, chairman and chief executive officer of Capital Group. “He will be remembered for his tremendous investment acumen, his strong character and leadership, and his caring and thoughtful manner.”
Jim led by example at home as well as in the workplace, teaching his children the value of patience and persistence, giving back, and the pleasure of hard work towards a goal. Despite his significant career accolades and achievements, he hardly ever talked about himself or his work, preferring to listen and learn about others. He encouraged his family to follow their dreams and took sincere delight in their successes.
Jim and his wife of 45 years, Nancy Dunton, built a happy life together in Pasadena, raising a family and enjoying each other’s company over countless moments of love and friendship. Jim and Nancy were involved with many Pasadena institutions, including All Saints Church, where they were married; Polytechnic School, where their daughter, Kait, attended for 13 years; the Huntington Library and the Huntington Hospital.
A private man with small-town values, Jim preferred to spend his time at home with family when not at work. But when the time came for it, Jim was a consummate host and loved to plan large corporate dinners and intimate family holidays down to the last detail. He was fascinated by history and loved to travel, most notably a European trip as a young college student with his brother that he would often recount (“We parked right at the Trevi Fountain!”) and many subsequent vacations with his family.
He loved music and poetry, and would drop lines of an obscure ode into otherwise unrelated conversations. He made a mean Manhattan and the perfect cocktail sauce to accompany his beloved Virginia oysters. He loved to make people laugh and brought humor and positivity even to the darkest corners, his appreciation for irony exemplified by the plaque of Murphy’s Law that he kept on his office desk.
Jim Dunton was born on January 18, 1938, in White Stone, a tiny Tidewater town with one stoplight and less than 600 people. His father, Ammon G. Dunton Sr., was a prominent lawyer, and his mother, Carolyn, was a concert violinist and pianist. “Jimmy K.”—as he was known in Virginia—and his older brother, Ammon Jr., grew up along the shores of the Rappahannock River where it spilled into the Chesapeake Bay until Jim left to attend Episcopal High School in Alexandria, graduating in 1955.
A lover of music and literature, Jim went on to earn a BA in English from the University of Virginia. Along the way, he enjoyed singing in the Virginia Glee Club and was a fraternity brother in Sigma Nu. He graduated in 1959 and that summer, welcomed his first son, Jay, with wife Janet Jamison. Their second son and first daughter, Rob and Beth, soon followed.
Jim served in the army before starting his MBA at the newly established UVA Darden Business School, graduating in 1962—the same year he was recruited by Capital Group. After a short training program in New York City, Jim moved out to CRMC’s new headquarters in Los Angeles and began his long and successful career. In a retirement interview, Jim reflected on his 50 years with Capital: “it’s been a labor of love and an identity I’ve treasured.”
Jim is survived by his wife, Nancy; his four children, Kait Dunton Reed (Jake), Elizabeth Dunton Gould, Robert A. Dunton (Susan) and James G. Dunton (Lori); six grandchildren, Luci Reed, Carolyn and Jay Gould V, Anson and Charles Dunton, Kait Dunton; his brother, Ammon G. Dunton Jr.; three nieces and one nephew.
Published by Los Angeles Times on January 15, 2023.