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Kirby’s namesake, Nintendo lawyer John Kirby, has died

John Kirby, the lawyer after which Nintendo named its iconic pink mascot, has died.

A New York Times obituary (thanks, Kotaku) obituary reveals Kirby died aged 79 on October 2nd, 2019, following complications arising from Myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of blood cancer. During his long career representing the Japanese developer, Kirby took on, and won, a copyright dispute in which Universal Studios purported Donkey Kong infringed on King Kong’s copyright.

“A career highlight (to his children) came when he successfully defended Nintendo during a trademark and copyright infringement suit brought by Universal City Studios concerning Nintendo’s video game character Donkey Kong,” the obituary reads. “John continued to represent Nintendo for many years, and Nintendo’s lead designer Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario Bros. and the Legend of Zelda franchises, named the popular video-game character “Kirby” in his honour. 

“Nintendo also gave John a sailboat, aptly named the Donkey Kong, which he took great pleasure in sailing with his family on the waters by his homes in Westhampton Beach, and later Shippan Point, Connecticut.”

Kirby also was instrumental in combating widespread institutional racism and helped bring about the American Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“[Kirby] was most proud of his time working at the Department of Justice as the special assistant to the head of the Civil Rights Division, John Doar, during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s,” the obituary adds. “At the Department of Justice, where he first worked as a summer intern, he gathered voting records throughout the South that demonstrated evidence of wide-spread discrimination against African-Americans. His discovery of methods such as literacy tests specifically designed to exclude African-Americans from voting helped form the basis of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

If you too would like to pay your respects, The Times intimates members of the public can make contributions in Kirby’s name to Kirby Scholarship Fund at Fordham University, as well as the Merton College Charitable Corporation and The Joseph F. Cullman, Jr. Institute for Patient Experience at Mount Sinai Hospital.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond.

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