James F. Graham, 54, of Jenkintown, a defense litigation lawyer and a partner in Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, a firm for which he managed the Cherry Hill and Roseland, N.J., offices, died of lung cancer Nov. 17 at his home.

"The lung cancer diagnosis in June came out of the blue," said Joe Santarone, a colleague and friend. "In his later years, Jim ran marathons. He smoked only for a while in the late 1970s, when he managed his grandfather's pub in the Northeast, Graham's Pub."

Mr. Graham was born in the Summerdale section of Northeast Philadelphia into a tight-knit family of six children. He graduated from Father Judge High School in 1971.

After he married Susan Weitzman in 1975, the couple moved to San Diego, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1985 from the University of California.

They moved to Jenkintown, and Mr. Graham earned a law degree in 1988 from Widener University. He then joined Marshall Dennehey. For years, he opened and managed offices for the firm in Western Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio and Florida, a total of 18.

Since 2002, Mr. Graham had managed the Cherry Hill office with 100 employees and the Roseland office in North Jersey. The Philadelphia Business Journal reported that the firm, with 380 lawyers, was the fastest growing in the Philadelphia region in the 1990s.

For two decades, Marshall Dennehey handled general liability cases, such as truck accidents, for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which formerly published The Inquirer.

"My father was a generous, big-hearted man," said his son, Colin, a second lieutenant in the Marines stationed in Japan. "When I played rugby at Catholic University, at least twice a week he jumped in his car to drive to D.C. for games. Then he took the whole team of 25 guys out to dinner."

Mr. Graham was unpretentious and often gave anonymously to those in need. "He gave money to a homeless man in Center City, and then took him to a shoe store and bought him a nice pair of shoes," his son said.

"Literally hundreds of friends came to his funeral services," Santarone said. "I gave the eulogy, and it was the hardest closing I ever had to do."

In addition to his son and wife, Mr. Graham is survived by a daughter, Susan Graham, a brother, and four sisters.

A Funeral Mass was said Nov. 24. Donations may be sent to the Breathing Room Foundation, Box 287, Jenkintown, Pa. 19046.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or gsims@phillynews.com.