James “Jay” Melvin Merchant died on June 25 due to heart failure, at George Washington University Hospital. He was an international relations advisor at the Department of Health & Human Services.
Merchant was born on September 4, 1936 in Saluda, S.C. He held a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in health care administration from the Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia, in Richmond, Va., which was awarded with honors.
Merchant served as an international health care advisor at HHS and was the principal liaison between HHS and the international community through its embassies based in Washington. Merchant was widely regarded as an expert on the U.S. health care system and the Medicare Program in particular. Foreign officials often came to him to help them understand the complex American health care system, and for advice on how to improve the health care programs in their own countries.
Merchant was very proud of the fact that he became “Sir” Jay in April, 2013 when he was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands into the “House of Orange” for his service to the Netherlands.
He was an active member of the board of B’nai B’rith Homecrest House in Silver Spring, Md., and the Washington Home & Community Hospices.
Merchant is survived by three sisters: Joyce Porth, Mary Merchant and Johnnie Hakim all of Columbia, S.C., as well as friend Wayne Russell of Crossville, Tenn., and his partner of 10 years Gerry Woods of Washington.
A memorial service will be held at National Presbyterian Church (4101 Nebraska Ave., N.W.) on July 26 at 1 p.m.