HEALY, JAMES A. The eldest son of a Georgia cotton planter and his mulatto wife, James Augustine Healy was born near Macon in 1830. While still a youngster, Healy was sent north in order to escape the harassment and ridicule children of interracial marriages normally received in racially-conscious Georgia. After attending a Quaker elementary school in New York and a Quaker secondary school in New Jersey, Healy enrolled at Holy Cross College in Westchester, New Jersey, from which he was graduated as valedictorian in 1849. In the meantime, he had
converted to Roman Catholicism with the hope of ultimately entering the priesthood.
James Healy's rise to prominence within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was rapid, if not spectacular. He entered the Sulpician Seminary in Montreal in 1849, transferred to the Sulpician Seminary in Paris, France in 1852, and was ordained at Notre Dame de Paris in 1854. Returning to the United States shortly thereafter, Healy's first assignment was as an assistant priest in Boston. In late 1854, he was named personal secretary to Bishop John Fitzpatrick, head of the diocese of Boston. In the following year, he became Bishop Fitzpatrick's diocesan chancellor.
In 1866, Father Healy was named pastor of St. James Church in South Boston, one of the largest churches in the entire diocese. Less than ten years later, in February 1875, Healy received a papal appointment to become the Bishop of the Portland Diocese, which included all of Maine and New Hampshire with approximately 80,000 Roman Catholic parishioners, most of whom were white. He held this position until his death in 1900. Two months before he died, Bishop Healy received word from Pope Leo XIII that he had been appointed an Assistant to the Papal Throne, one of the most significant positions in all of Roman Catholicism.