James Paul “JIMMY” DONAHUE Jr. was an heir to the Woolworth estate and a noted New York City socialite. He was the second son of James Paul Donahue, the scion of an Irish American family which had made a fortune in the fat rendering business (Retail Butchers’ Fat Rendering Company), by his wife Jessie Woolworth Donahue, one of the three daughters of Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the Woolworth retail chain. His older brother was Woolworth Donahue who brought a cheetah to Cannes following a safari .
Donahue was a nephew of Edna Woolworth, a wealthy socialite and a nephew by marriage of Franklyn Laws Hutton, a co-founder of the brokerage firm E. F. Hutton & Co. He was also the first cousin and confidante of the American socialite Barbara Hutton.
Donahue was a high school dropout. He initially attended the Hun School at Princeton, NJ, and after his parents were advised to remove him from there, he was shifted to Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. However, he was expelled from that school at age 17. Following his expulsion from Choate he took tap dance lessons with the tap dance master Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Having been born into a wealthy family, Donahue never felt the need to earn a living, and indeed he lived lavishly, travelling the world with a valet in tow and staying at the most expensive hotels. He was known within his circle by the nickname “Jeem”. A playboy by nature, he was a gay man although he claimed he had had a four-year affair with Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, the wife of the Duke of Windsor and former King Edward VIII. This claim is endorsed by Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Earl Mountbatten of Burma and a cousin of the Duke of Windsor.
But it is far more likely that Jimmy played footsie with the Duke than the Duchess and all the “endorsement” and giggles from Simpson was because they knew the real — and far more convenient — story.
Donahue had several mansions built, including one on Palm beach, Florida where the Duke and Duchess stayed . Jimmy reportedly kicked the Duchess in the shin during the Windsors visit from the Bahamas where the duke was governor during the war. Presumably the Windsors used the Florida detectives during the Harry Oakes murder case in 1943 that were their body guards on this earlier trip to Florida in 1941.
He is buried in the Woolworth Family Mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, having died in 1966 at the age of 51.