Jim Kimsey

Founded AOL. Donated Kimsey Athletic Center – South end of Blaik Field, Home of Army Football, major contributor to establishing The ’62 Room, our Class Fitness Center.  Served 3 Combat Tours.
Distinguished Graduate 2008

Jim Kimsey, a dot-com entrepreneur who helped turn a failed video game company into America Online, the giant dial-up service that helped bring the Internet to the masses, died on Tuesday at his home in McLean, Va. He was 76.

The cause was cancer, his son Mark said.

Long before Facebook or Twitter, Mr. Kimsey was a co-founder of AOL, connecting a nascent online audience with news and information as never before. Through its online chat rooms and email service, the company influenced a generation of Internet providers and left an imprint on popular American culture, the sound of a buzzing modem and its trademark “You’ve got mail!” entering the national lexicon. (It was the title of a 1998 Nora Ephron film with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.)

Mr. Kimsey steered AOL through its early days as its founding chairman and chief executive, but he largely avoided the spotlight. In 1995, the year Mr. Kimsey stepped down as chairman, The Washington Post called him a “behind-the-scenes power broker” whose name might lead the average person to “draw a blank.”

Indeed, one of his best known acts at AOL was handing power to someone else. Mr. Kimsey, a sort of elder statesman for the company, groomed another co-founder, Steve Case, at the time a young Internet marketing expert, to take over.

Mr. Case oversaw AOL’s expansion into a media conglomerate with a $220 billion market capitalization.

“I think one of the best things I ever did was let Steve run the company,” Mr. Kimsey told The Washington Post in 1995. “Today that one decision to get out of the way makes me look like a genius.”

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