John Kirby, Savior of Donkey Kong, Dies at 79

kirby
(Photo: New York Times and Nintendo)

John Joseph Kirby Jr. passed away this week from blood cancer on October 2, at age 79, surrounded by both family and friends. An attorney, Kirby is best-known for successfully defending Nintendo in a legal battle against Universal in the 1980s that saved the Donkey Kong franchise, which was being targeted by an IP infringement that claimed the Nintendo series was illegally based on King Kong. It's rumored that Nintendo named its character Kirby after the lawyer for saving its massive franchise, however, this has never been confirmed.

In addition to saving Donkey Kong from Universal, Kirby worked for Pepsi and America Online, and notably worked at the Department of Justice as the special assistant to the head of the Civil Rights Division. Kirby's life and accomplishments go well beyond his work for Nintendo, but it's his work for the Japanese games company that most -- at least on the Internet -- know him for.

While it has never been confirmed that Kirby the character is named after Kirby the lawyer, it's known that Nintendo eventually gifted John a sailboat, named Donkey Kong. It is said that Kirby enjoyed sailing with his family throughout his life, from the shore of Westhampton Beach to the waters off Shippan Point, Connecticut.

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Our condolences go out to Kirby's family and friends during this difficult time.

Source: Legacy