By JEFF WILSON, Associated Press Writer Thursday, March 8, 2007
(03-08) 10:41 PST Los Angeles (AP) --
Retired Judge James Randal Ross, great-grandson of outlaw Jesse James and author of the book "I, Jesse James," has died. He was 80.
Ross died Monday of a heart attack at his Fullerton home, his third cousin Eric James, president of the James Preservation Trust, confirmed Wednesday from his home in Danville, Ky. Ross had been in failing health for a year.
Born in July 1926, in Independence, Mo., Ross was the closest living relative of Frank and Jesse James. His mother was Josephine Frances "Jo Frances" James, granddaughter of Jesse James.
Ross was an Orange County Superior Court judge from 1983 to 1995, when he retired.
Of all the cases he handled, Ross was most proud of one involving Disneyland banning gays from dancing at the Anaheim amusement park, Eric James said.
Disneyland had imposed the ban in 1957, when dancing was first allowed. In 1980, a homosexual couple was kicked out of the park for dancing together. When the case made it to Ross' court, he ruled in favor of the gay couple.
In July 1985, Disneyland lifted the 28-year-old ban.
"He was quite proud of that case. He felt that basically it was in the tradition of the James family to make sure civil rights are restored to citizens," Eric James said.
Ross was censured in 1998 for "egregious misconduct" by the state Commission on Judicial Performance and was barred from "receiving any assignment, appointment or reference of work from any California state court."
During an appearance before a three-judge special masters panel appointed by the commission, Ross defended himself against a variety of allegations, including using his courtroom to sell "I, Jesse James."
He also was accused of unfairly threatening to jail a lawyer, telling a dirty joke in court and sleeping during trials. His censure was based in large part to his unrepentance.
The James gang operated from 1873 to 1881 in Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky and Minnesota, robbing 11 banks, six trains and two stagecoaches.
Brothers Jesse and Frank were the mainstay of the gang of post-Civil War outlaws that usually rode east to Kentucky after a robbery because of the number of relatives and friends they could count on to provide shelter and security.
Jesse James died April 3, 1882, in St. Joseph, Mo. Eric James said he and Ross had finished the memoirs of Ross and provided the material to his family.
Ross is survived by his wife Rosemary and four children, daughters Bonnie Jo Barnes of California, Elizabeth Danielle Sucwzinski of San Diego; and sons Randall Glenn Ross of Los Angeles and David James Ross, whose hometown wasn't available.
A private funeral was planned. ___ Associated Press History Writer Thomas S. Watson in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report. ___ ****************************************