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James G. Potter

Corporate attorney James G. Potter was born August 1, 1957 in Muncie, Indiana. Orphaned with three brothers and a sister when his parents passed away, Potter was raised in Richmond, Indiana by librarian Maxine Embry. He attended Vaile Elementary School, Hibbard Junior High School and graduated from Richmond High School in 1975 as the top male student. Majoring in philosophy and behavioral science, Potter worked as a dialysis technician and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1978. In 1982, Potter graduated from Harvard Law School.

Potter worked for the firm of Keck, Mahin and Cate of Chicago in the corporate and securities area. His clients included Morgan, Lewis and Bockius of Philadelphia. From 1989 to 1997, Potter served as chief legal officer of Prudential Direct, a business unit of Prudential Insurance that included Prudential Bank and Trust Company. In this capacity, he provided direct support in the areas of banking, corporate, finance and securities law, and managed the law departments of the Prudential subsidiaries that make up the business unit. Potter served as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company, which comprises the fifth largest share of the variable life insurance market in the United States. At Provident, Potter managed the law, compliance, and corporate secretary departments. Joining Del Monte Foods Company in 2001, Potter was appointed general counsel and secretary for the food and pet products giant. He is now the company’s senior vice president and corporation counsel.

Concerned about diversity in the workplace, in 1999, Potter joined the legal counsels of 500 major U.S. corporations in signing a document entitled, “Diversity in the Workplace, A Call to Action”. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Minority Corporation Counsels and the Coalition to Promote Minority Health. He is also chairman of the steering committee of the California Minority Counsel Program.

Potter, the father of a son, Jameson, and daughter, Lauren, lives and works in San Francisco, California.

Accession Number

A2005.216

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/17/2005

Last Name

Potter

Maker Category
Middle Name

G.

Occupation
Schools

Richmond High School

Vaile Elementary School

Hibbard Junior High School

University of Chicago

Harvard Law School

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Muncie

HM ID

POT01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Cabos, Mexico

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/1/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Corn (Caramel)

Short Description

Corporate lawyer James G. Potter (1957 - ) served as chief legal officer of Prudential Direct, a business unit of Prudential Insurance that included Prudential Bank and Trust Company. Potter also served as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Employment

Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP

Keck, Mahin and Cate

Prudential Direct

Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company

Del Monte Foods

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296662">Tape: 1 Slating of James G. Potter's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296663">Tape: 1 James G. Potter lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296664">Tape: 1 James G. Potter describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296665">Tape: 1 James G. Potter describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296666">Tape: 1 James G. Potter describes his parents' relationship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296667">Tape: 1 James G. Potter talks about being adopted</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296668">Tape: 1 James G. Potter describes his earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296669">Tape: 1 James G. Potter describes growing up in Richmond, Indiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296670">Tape: 1 James G. Potter describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296671">Tape: 1 James G. Potter reflects on his greatest childhood influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296672">Tape: 1 James G. Potter describes the Glen Miller Park Zoo in Richmond, Indiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296673">Tape: 2 James G. Potter describes the historic homes of Richmond, Indiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296674">Tape: 2 James G. Potter describes his mother's famous relatives</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296675">Tape: 2 James G. Potter describes Vaile Elementary School in Richmond, Indiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296676">Tape: 2 James G. Potter recalls his favorite school subjects</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296677">Tape: 2 James G. Potter remembers the small black population in Richmond, Indiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296678">Tape: 2 James G. Potter remembers an incident at Vaile Elementary School, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296679">Tape: 2 James G. Potter remembers an incident at Vaile Elementary School, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296680">Tape: 2 James G. Potter describes his demeanor at Richmond Senior High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296681">Tape: 2 James G. Potter recalls deciding to attend the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296682">Tape: 2 James G. Potter reflects upon the influence of church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296683">Tape: 2 James G. Potter describes the campus culture at the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296453">Tape: 3 James G. Potter describes the students at the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296454">Tape: 3 James G. Potter describes the social and geographic boundaries of Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296455">Tape: 3 James G. Potter describes his academics at the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296456">Tape: 3 James G. Potter remembers African American professors at the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296457">Tape: 3 James G. Potter describes his social life at the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296458">Tape: 3 James G. Potter remembers deciding to be a lawyer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296459">Tape: 3 James G. Potter remembers working as a dialysis technician</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296460">Tape: 3 James G. Potter remembers his time at Harvard Law School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296684">Tape: 4 James G. Potter describes the teaching style at Harvard Law School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296685">Tape: 4 James G. Potter reflects upon the negative aspects of law school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296686">Tape: 4 James G. Potter reflects upon how Harvard Law School changed his world view</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296687">Tape: 4 James G. Potter remembers being taught by HistoryMaker Derrick A. Bell, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296688">Tape: 4 James G. Potter recalls black student organizations at Harvard Law School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296689">Tape: 4 James G. Potter describes the time constraints of law school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296690">Tape: 4 James G. Potter explains why his skipped his Harvard Law School graduation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296691">Tape: 4 James G. Potter remembers working on Harold Washington's mayoral campaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296692">Tape: 4 James G. Potter remembers his experience at Keck, Mahin and Cate in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296693">Tape: 4 James G. Potter describes his relationship with his ex-wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296694">Tape: 4 James G. Potter explains how to succeed at a law firm</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296472">Tape: 5 James G. Potter tells humorous stories from his time in corporate law</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296473">Tape: 5 James G. Potter describes practicing corporate law</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296474">Tape: 5 James G. Potter explains how corporations slip into bad practices</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296475">Tape: 5 James G. Potter describes the qualities that make him a good lawyer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296476">Tape: 5 James G. Potter describes his ethics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296477">Tape: 5 James G. Potter reflects upon corruption in corporate law</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296478">Tape: 5 James G. Potter reflects upon changes in the law profession</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296479">Tape: 5 James G. Potter explains why he left Morgan, Lewis and Bockius</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296480">Tape: 6 James G. Potter remembers joining The Prudential Insurance Company of America</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296481">Tape: 6 James G. Potter compares law firms to corporations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296482">Tape: 6 James G. Potter remembers proving himself at The Prudential Insurance Company of America</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296483">Tape: 6 James G. Potter reflects upon succeeding with integrity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296484">Tape: 6 James G. Potter remembers leaving The Prudential Insurance Company of America</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296485">Tape: 6 James G. Potter describes his experience at Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296486">Tape: 6 James G. Potter describes the diversity at Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296487">Tape: 6 James G. Potter explains why he joined Del Monte Corporation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296488">Tape: 6 James G. Potter remembers working at Del Monte Corporation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296489">Tape: 7 James G. Potter describes some of the products Del Monte Foods produces</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296490">Tape: 7 James G. Potter describes his efforts to increase diversity at law firms</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296491">Tape: 7 James G. Potter describes his work with the Coalition to Promote Minority Health</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296492">Tape: 7 James G. Potter describes his concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296493">Tape: 7 James G. Potter talks about his future plans</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296494">Tape: 7 James G. Potter reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296495">Tape: 7 James G. Potter describes his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296496">Tape: 8 James G. Potter speaks about the reunion of African American Harvard Law School graduates</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296497">Tape: 8 James G. Potter describes untold stories of struggle</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296498">Tape: 8 James G. Potter describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
James G. Potter remembers deciding to be a lawyer
James G. Potter remembers joining The Prudential Insurance Company of America
Transcript
Anything sig- else about University of Chicago [Chicago, Illinois] you wanna talk about before we move you to law school [Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts]? Or how did you decide to go to law school?$$I went to law school, I decided actually to go to law school because I had a fundamental lack of knowledge of what lawyers do. You know my background you either worked at a factory which was you know a shift so you had the first shift or your second or the gra- graveyard shift. Or you were like my mother [Maxine Embry Potter] who worked as a librarian and she left the house every day at 8:30 and came home every day at quarter til six. So that was my only experience and I thought that that's how the world kind of worked. So when I was finishing up college, I wanted to do two things. I'll get to law school first and in the interim but I thought you know what I need to go out here and get trained to actually earn a living and but I don't wanna give up you know reading philosophy and studying philosophy so why not become a lawyer and when you get home a quarter of six every night, you can read philosophy. (Laughter) I'm serious. I had no idea. And so I applied to, I applied to law schools and I done you know very well at the University of Chicago and so was able to get into law school and that's really how I, how I went off to law school. Now interestingly enough I had always thought when I was a kid that I wanted to be a counselor and obviously that is the title of what I do now because I mean it just seems to be my personality. I you know I talk to people about their issues and kind of bring to bear you know a certain amount of judgment et cetera. So that piece of it has worked out.$How did you get involved with Prudential [The Prudential Insurance Company of America; Prudential Financial, Inc., Newark, New Jersey], what happened?$$At- at the end of the day, at Morgan Lewis [Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] I think I departed because I didn't see me forming connections with the, with the partners. The world--the law firm world is kind of sterile. Most law firms are fairly sterile and so I had just by by coincidence our next door neighbor was a executive search person and she stopped over one evening to say we were talking about a host of things but she asked me if I--what kind of law I did and I said well it's shaded now to banking and securities work. You know her ears kind of picked up at the banking reference and she said well she was working on a project for Prudential who wanted to get into the retail banking business and would I be interested in talking with them? And I, and I was, I was interested. I was interested because it would allow me to vary my practice. It would allow me to work with you know a single client and it also would allow me to get onto the, on to the management side. And so went up and talked with talked with Prudential, liked the idea. They were basically assembling a team of executives to go build their retail banking business. The commute was gonna be a bear. I was gonna be commuting from Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] to Newark, New Jersey on a daily basis. But with the, with the trains I decided to give it a shot and moved to--moved up to Prudential, stayed in the same housing situation, but moved to Prudential in 1989.$$Okay. How long a commute was it?$$Two hours. If you took the train it was two hours. I ended up driving at some point when we moved out to Doylestown [Pennsylvania] from Malcas Park [ph.] and it turned about an hour and a half, sixty-three miles one way. So fortunately though when you drove the--you could really go on, on the highway 78 [Interstate 78] quite fast, so you covered sixty-three miles. Sixty-three miles is a long drive and you know again one of the things that people do these days is commuting you know sort of outrageous times cuts into family time et cetera but it was a great opportunity to go and, and to build the business and to start shading away from the pure technical practice of law to the more business you know business driven practice of law.