Jim Blackburn / Motivational Keynote Speaker
A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jim Blackburn graduated from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Political Science and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of North Carolina Law School at Chapel Hill.
Jim became an Assistant Attorney General with the North Carolina Justice Department under Attorney General Robert Morgan, becoming an advisor to multiple state agencies and arguing criminal appeals for the State in both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court as well as arguing federal constitutional cases in various federal courts across North Carolina.
In 1974, Jim became the Director of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and a Special Deputy Attorney General until 1976 when he joined the office’s Special Prosecution Division, handling criminal cases across North Carolina.
In the fall of 1977, Jim became the First Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which represents forty-four of North Carolina’s counties from Raleigh to the coast. For four years he prosecuted federal criminal cases in Raleigh, Fayetteville, New Bern and Wilmington. In 1979, he was the lead prosecutor in the triple murder case of former Green Beret Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald.
In the spring of 1980, Jim was appointed United States Attorney and remained in that position until late September, 1980, when he resigned to enter private law practice in Raleigh. Throughout the 1980’s and through 1992, Jim was a prominent North Carolina attorney, handling both criminal and civil matters.
In 1993, Jim left the practice of law. Although appearing to be at the top of his profession based on all standard measures of success, inwardly, he suffered from the pressures that often come with that success. A drive to win at any cost, a strong desire to be all things to all people and an underlying depression took their toll, ending his legal career suddenly and spectacularly when a number of ethical misdeeds were discovered.
Jim’s subsequent surrender of his law license, guilty pleas to state charges, and a three and one-half stint in state prison were well publicized in the media. He was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and was placed under a psychiatrist’s care for over three years. Upon his release from prison, Jim began to slowly rebuild his life.
Jim Blackburn started by waiting tables for tips at the very restaurant in Raleigh where he had spent many hours as a paying customer and eventually was hired by then State Treasurer Harlan Boyles to serve as the Assistant to the Director of the State’s Teacher and State Employees’ Retirement System.
In 2000, Jim wrote and published a book about his difficulties, and that book, entitled Flame-out: From Prosecuting Jeffrey MacDonald to Serving Time to Serving Tables. Just recently, the book entered its fourth printing, with a new Afterword that discusses what Jim has experienced and learned during the last years. It is now available in either soft cover or in e-book format.
Starting out as a guest speaker for the North Carolina Bar Association on the subject of “Quality of Life”, Jim has continued as a motivational speaker across several states and now has his own business “Jim Blackburn Seminars, LLC”, which provides seminars on ethics, professionalism and mental health to several professions in different states as diverse as New Mexico, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and South and North Carolina. To book ethics andpersonal growth speaker Jim Blackburn call Executive Speakers Bureau 800-754-9404.
I was from Venus and my Lawyers were from Mars –
A program on ethics and professionalism for lawyers and paralegals based on my experiences as a client when I ran into legal difficulty years ago. My attorneys were two of the best anywhere, and they were my good friends. It was, I am sure, difficult to represent a professional and a former colleague and friend. It was difficult for me taking directions from someone else. In this program, I explore in detail the pressures we were all under and the trust that was necessary, without which, I would not have survived. What makes a good and successful professional relationship? Is it a written understanding between the parties outlining the services to be rendered and the cost that will entail? Is it the attorney being competent? Is it communication between the attorneys and the returning of phone calls? Or is it something more basic like simple trust? What is it that clients really want from their attorneys? The real answer may surprise you.
The Unforgiving Minute -
Rudyard Kipling once wrote that if “you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ of distance run…you will be a man, my son…” While that is no doubt true, I have learned that your life can take a different turn, based on decisions you make in a single minute, and sometimes there is no going back. How do you make sure you make the best and right decision? How can you avoid mistakes that will follow you the rest of your life? In my life, I made some very wrong ones, and I still live with the consequences today. But I also made some right ones thereafter, and they have changed my life for the better. The wrong decisions were made alone, but the right ones were made with good friends…It is true that no person is an island. Find out how not to make yourself one or how to get off if you are there now.
Landmines on the way to the Top and how to avoid Them –
In my twenties, I became a lawyer and often argued cases in the North Carolina Supreme Court. In my thirties, I was the lead prosecutor in the federal murder trial of Jeffrey MacDonald and gained widespread attention and was featured in the bestselling book Fatal Vision, and television mini-series by the same name. I was the lead prosecutor, selected by the local District Attorney and the Governor’s office for the special prosecution of the then sitting North Carolina Lt. Governor. In my forties, I became a partner in what was then North Carolina’s second largest law firm. And then I went to hell, largely of my own making. Why did I succeed, and why did I fail? And could any of that apply to you? How can you learn to be successful, how you can get to the top and avoid the possible landmines that may be in your way?
Living your life in Technicolor and not in Black and White –
Isn’t that the way you want to live? When is the last time your life was that way? When was the last time you were carefree and happy? Is it possible to be that way when you are older, or is that the privilege of the very young? These are the questions put to me years ago by my psychiatrist. I have never forgotten them. Living this way is not that difficult. It just requires honesty in being the person you really are. I have learned there is no time barrier involved. It is never too late…to start over or to be happy. After all my problems were made public, and I had no place to hide, after I lost almost everything I had worked my whole life for, I learned that where people put a period, God only puts a comma. Faith, humor, unconditional friendship and love, grace, accepting responsibility, never giving up and angels are the stuff of such a life.
Ethics in Life, the Marketplace and Business –
People are the same everywhere, no matter where they may work or live. And so are businesses. Everyone wants to be happy and successful, to make money, to be rewarded for a good job, to be secure and to be honest. No one starts out wanting to make mistakes. No one wants to be a failure. By asking the question of “how do you want to be remembered”, I talk about ethical decisions that people face every day in their life and work, how to stay out of trouble, how businesses can protect themselves from the mistakes of their people…essentially how to do the right thing, and why that can make a person, many employees and indeed businesses successful and honest and happy. By using some of my own personal life experiences, I can relate what I have learned to hopefully help others and to make sure you will be remembered well.
Night Falls Fast –
The issues of mental illness, depression and even suicide are topics few people enjoy discussing. Yet, they are all alive and happening to some of us every day. I know. I am not qualified as a medical person to give medical advice on these topics. But as someone who became very ill, suffered major depression, was hospitalized for a short time, thought about suicide and ultimately rejected it, I can tell you my story, and what I remember from a dark time in my life. Eventually, against all odds, I became well. I was able to start my life over. I have lived to tell about it. I did not do it alone. No one can. But by shining a bright life in a very personal and dark corner, I want to give people hope, which was the real medicine I needed to make me whole again. This can happen for you and for people whom you know. Let me tell you about it.
President, Restaurant Operations Boddie-Noell Enterprises, Inc.
"I was fortunate to hear Jim Blackburn speak at a Bank Directors meeting and I knew right away Jim would relate to our people. Jim's story conveys that no matter how low your life circumstances get, you never, never give up. He reinforces that wherever you are in your walk of life; your mountaintop successes or your deep valley lows, your faith, family, friends and your relationships with people are the most important aspects of life.
Boddie-Noell has a vision and values statement we strive to live by. At the heart of our vision and values is "Simply Doing What is Right". Jim did what was right in facing his problems and turning his life around.
What a GREAT story of having it all, losing it and starting over."
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