J. Grant McCabe III, 88, of Media, a longtime Philadelphia lawyer, died Wednesday, Dec. 14, of pulmonary fibrosis at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

For more than 40 years, Mr. McCabe practiced law at Rawle & Henderson, a law firm founded in 1783. He served as a managing partner, and as chairman for 10 years.

In 1979, when the firm's fortunes were declining, McCabe - described in an American Bar Association Journal article as "a tall, broad-shouldered man with a firm handshake and a quick smile" - flew to Tokyo and persuaded a major client to stay with Rawle.

That gave the firm the boost it needed to merge with Hudson, Wilf & Kronfeld under the name Rawle & Henderson. It expanded its offerings from maritime law to general litigation, business, and commercial cases.

Mr. McCabe took an active part in that transition, the journal article said.

One of the major honors he had practicing law was his election to the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. McCabe grew up on the Main Line, said his longtime friend John Boyer. He graduated from Haverford School in 1940, from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in 1944, andfrom the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1950.

He served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War, retiring as a lieutenant commander.

In 1948, he married the former Nelle Vastine. The two met as students at Penn. They made their home in Wynnewood, raising four sons and a daughter. They divorced in 1981, according to court documents. She died in 2010.

Out of the office, Mr. McCabe put his considerable energy into an array of projects. Twenty-two years ago, he helped found Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr. He was active with the Presbyterian Church of America and served on its law committee, Boyer said.

He also was on the board of Springton Lake Village, the retirement community where he lived for eight years until his death.

"He was a natural leader," Boyer said. "Every organization that he participated in, he was offered a leadership role, and he undertook it."

He was a Lower Merion Township commissioner from 1966 to 1972, representing Ward Five.

He and his current wife, the former Alberta Littlefield, had known each other from childhood, stepdaughter Janice H. Murdoch said. They became reacquainted while working together on the founding of Proclamation Presbyterian Church, Murdoch said.

In addition to his wife and stepdaughter, Mr. McCabe is survived by sons Joseph Grant IV, Randall, Anderson, and Franklin; a daughter, Sheridan Vastine; stepchildren Henry Hauptfuhrer IV and Linda B. Hauptfuhrer; six grandchildren; six step-grandchildren; and a sister.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, at Proclamation Presbyterian Church, 278 S. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010. Interment is private.

Memorial donations may be made to the church.

Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.