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Kirby Namesake, Former Nintendo Lawyer John Kirby Dies Aged 79

Kirby Namesake, Former Nintendo Lawyer John Kirby Dies Aged 79

John Kirby, the longtime Nintendo attorney and inspiration behind the naming of gaming's iconic pink blob Kirby has sadly passed away from a form of blood cancer. He was 79. Shigeru Miyamoto famously named the blobby pink Nintendo mascot after John Kirby when the character was created for 1992's Kirby's Dream Land.

Of course, while the above anecdote might well be John Kirby's most entertaining contribution to Nintendo, it was far from his only one, or most vital. Hardcore Nintendo fans may be aware that Kirby also played a huge role in "saving" Donkey Kong. He represented the company in a 1984 case regarding whether or not Donkey Kong was in violation of Universal Studio's copyright for King Kong.

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo

Kirby helped Nintendo win the case, allowing the company to keep the Donkey Kong name and plot, securing its place as an established and beloved Nintendo franchise.

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As a result of the victory, Miyamoto decided to name an entirely new hero and franchise after the lawyer, and the Kirby we all know and love was born. He was reportedly also given a sailboat called Donkey Kong as a thank you from Nintendo. Kirby apparently often took "great pleasure" in sailing Donkey Kong with his family near their home in Connecticut.

These contributions to the world of entertainment alone would be enough to ensure that John Kirby had left his mark on the world, but his work for Nintendo isn't even close to the most impressive thing he managed to achieve in his career.

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Kirby also worked with Pepsi and America Online at various points in his career, but according to his obituary in the New York Times, he was proudest of the work he did early on in his career for the Justice Department during the 1960s after graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law.

While working as special assistant to the head of the department's Civil Rights division, Kirby "gathered voting records throughout the South that demonstrated evidence of wide-spread discrimination against African-Americans." This discovery ultimately formed the basis of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Credit: New York Times/Nintendo
Credit: New York Times/Nintendo

There's no denying that John Kirby made a number of incalculable, truly remarkable contributions to the world during his career, then. The public have been invited to 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.

Featured Image Credit: Nintendo/New York Times

Topics: Nintendo

Ewan Moore

Journalist at GAMINGbible who still quite hasn’t gotten out of my mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), I went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis.