Ireland House Oral History Collection

James E. Rooney

Jim Rooney, 9 November 2006. Photo by Marion R. Casey.

Created/Published:

November 9, 2006

1 hour, 30 minutes

Preferred Citation:

Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University

Biographical Note:

James (“Jim”) E. Rooney (b. 1967 Pittsburgh, PA) is the son of Daniel M. and Patricia Rooney (b. 1932), and the grandson of Arthur J. (1901–1988) and Kathleen Rooney (d. 1982). Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team in the Eastern division of the National Football League (NFL), in July of 1933 and turned its operations over to Dan Rooney in 1975 when Jim was eight years old. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the “Team of the Decade” during the 1970s, winning four Super Bowls (NFL Championships) in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979. Jim Rooney grew up in his grandfather’s house on North Lincoln Avenue on the North Side of Pittsburgh, not far from Three Rivers Stadium where, for most of his life, the Steelers played and the family business played out. In February 2006 the Pittsburgh Steelers, under the leadership of Jim’s oldest brother, Art Rooney II, won their fifth Super Bowl championship.

Fourth generation Irish on his mother’s side and second on the Reagan side, Jim Rooney grew up in a Catholic family that emphasized tradition and loyalty. By the time Jim was born in 1967, Daniel M. Rooney had achieved both success and prosperity in various sporting ventures and was able to give his nine children a very affluent standard of living. This was tempered, however, by the very pragmatic outlook of Jim’s mother, the daughter of immigrants from County Mayo, Ireland who had emigrated to Pittsburgh in the early 1920s. The Rooneys were members of St. Peter’s parish on the North Side, but Jim attended St. Bernard elementary school in Mt. Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb, and later Gilmour Academy near Cleveland, Ohio. He chose to break with family tradition, going to Boston College instead of Duquesne University, graduating with a degree in political science and communications in 1989.

After college, Jim Rooney was active in local Pittsburgh affairs including the city’s 1991 Childhood Lead Prevention Effectiveness study and its Planning Commission (1993–1996). He went to Belfast, Northern Ireland in the late 1990s to assist his father’s work with the American Ireland Fund. (1) In 2001, he ran unsuccessfully for the Pennsylvania State Senate as a Democrat. At the time of this interview, Jim Rooney had been involved with the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence in the Katz Graduate School of Business for five years and was director of its FirstLink center.(2)

Married to Stephanie Blacksley, Jim Rooney is raising three children in a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Interviewers:

Photo Credit:

  1. Jim Rooney, 9 November 2006. Photo by Marion R. Casey.

Notes:

  1. The American Ireland Fund was established in 1976 by Daniel Rooney and Dr. Anthony J.F. O’Reilly as a charitable foundation to support Ireland and its people. See http://www.irlfunds.org/aif/.
  2. FirstLink supports the transfer of Department of Defense first responder technologies to the commercial marketplace. See http://ieefirstlink.com/html/about.asp.
  3. This interview took place before Jim Rooney was scheduled to talk about his family and the Steelers tradition as part of Ireland House’s Fall 2006 Calendar of Events.