Cover photo for James Franklin Flug's Obituary
James Franklin Flug Profile Photo

James Franklin Flug

James Franklin Flug, 81, passed away at his home in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, with his wife of 49 years and his daughters at his side. James, known as Jim or Jimmy to family and friends, spent his life in public service and the law. He was known never to miss a family occasion, school or camp reunion, recreational sports opportunity, or breaking national news.

Flug called himself a “Washington Lawyer.” Indeed, his career covered much of the District’s and the country’s legal, political and public interest spheres. His work for Senator Edward M. Kennedy spanned forty years, as the Senator’s Legislative Assistant (1967-69), Chief Counsel on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (1969-73); as well as Special Counsel, Maryland director, and convention press secretary for Kennedy’s Presidential Campaign (1979-80). He was especially proud to contribute to the Senator’s efforts to beat back a Congressional attack on the Supreme Court’s “one-man, one-vote” decision, pass the 1968 gun control law, defeat two of President Richard Nixon’s Supreme Court nominations, and to conduct the first formal investigation of the Watergate scandal. And he returned to the Senator’s staff as Chief Counsel in 2003-2006, to work on legal and constitutional issues, including the Roberts and Alito Supreme Court nominations.

Flug’s career began when, after graduating Harvard College and Law School, he moved to Washington in 1963 for a one-year clerkship with Judge David Bazelon. He then worked for Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and others in the Tax Division of the Justice Department, where he met his beloved wife, Carla. Then, as Director of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Flug was active in the adoption and implementation of the 1974 Legal Services Corporation Act, funding legal aid for people who cannot afford counsel. Next, he headed Energy Action, which challenged oil companies and the Carter administration on energy issues during the 1970’s oil crisis.

From 1980 to 2003, Flug practiced “private public interest law,” first as a partner at the firm Lobel, Novins, Lamont, and Flug. That work included helping state governments obtain large oil overcharge refunds for use in their energy programs and, as Washington Counsel for the Generic Drug industry, helping to push for the enactment of the historic “Hatch-Waxman” compromise to accelerate approvals of generic drugs. In 1991, he co-founded National Narrowcast Network with his wife Carla, who, as Executive Director, brought to life his then-radical, pre-internet idea of providing live audio coverage of congressional and federal agency hearings over the phone. He also served on the board of his synagogue, Tifereth Israel, and of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, and he enjoyed swimming laps at Wilson High School and playing tennis with friends.

Later in life, Flug’s love of storytelling and his belief in the ability to make a difference naturally led him to serve as an adjunct law professor focusing on public interest and government law with American University and Georgetown University, and a visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School and The Kennedy School of Government.

Despite gravitating to Washington for his career, Flug always thought of himself as a Brooklyn kid and a camper/counselor at Wigwam, the Maine camp where he spent 15 summers. Born on January 17, 1939, to Samuel S. Flug and Evelyn Raphael Flug, he grew up in Brooklyn’s Manhattan Beach. His eyes twinkled when he remembered Ebinger’s cupcakes, the old Nathan’s, his father’s recitation of Kipling on family car trips, holidays with family, and meals at Lundy’s. He often sang his young daughters and then grandchildren to sleep with baritone versions of Wigwam’s campfire songs. The biggest testament to his passion for these experiences are his many lifelong friends from as far back as nursery school, The Center Academy, Poly Preparatory School and camp.

Flug was no less passionate about his Harvard College and Law School friends and involvements, including starting a local civil defense group, selling Vespas for his brother’s dealership, and reporting for radio station WHRB, for which he once finagled an interview with a young presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. In Washington, too, Carla and Jim’s friends and colleagues became a second extended family.

James Flug is survived by his beloved wife, Carla Carbaugh Flug; his daughters Margo Flug Jhaveri of Brooklyn, NY, Amanda Flug Davidoff of Washington, DC, and Susanna Flug-Silva of Belmont, MA; his sisters Barbara Flug Colin of Roslyn Estates, NY, and Victoria Flug Sterling of Denver, CO; his sons-in-law Sujay Jhaveri, Sam Davidoff, and Robert Flug-Silva; his grandchildren Nicholas, Emma, Noah, and Jerrin; and his many siblings-in-law, nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was predeceased by his brothers Martin R. Flug of Aspen, CO, and Robert K. Flug of Portland, OR.

To his family, Flug will forever be leading his daughters down a ski slope while humming the skater’s waltz, adventuring with Carla according to their painstakingly crafted travel itineraries, floating on the brook in Westport with his grandchildren and siblings, singing rousing and approximate renditions of holiday prayers with his cousins, nieces, and nephews, and following his own advice to “never miss a party.”

A virtual memorial service for family and friends is being held on Sunday, January 17, 2021, from 1-2:30pm EST. If you would like to join the service, please register in advance here.. Whether or not you can be there, the family invites you to share memories, stories, and/or condolences online via a form available here.

Charitable contributions may be made to DC Central Kitchen.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Franklin Flug, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Sunday, January 17, 2021

1:00 - 2:30 pm (Eastern time)

, VA

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