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David James

Army Air Corps officer and attorney Lt. David F. James was born on November 17, 1923 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1941, after graduating from Lane Tech High School in Chicago, James attended Loyola University. During his freshman year in 1942, James entered the U.S. Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Training Program in Tuskegee, Alabama. Upon arrival at Tuskegee Air Field, James was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group where he trained to fly single seat fighter planes.

From 1944 to 1945, James flew combat missions with the 332nd Fighter Group over Germany as well as other countries in Eastern Europe during World War II. In 1946, James completed his tour of duty with the Army Air Force and re-enrolled at Loyola University. Later, in 1949, James graduated from Loyola University with his B.A. degree. James was hired by business machine manufacturer Burroughs Corporation in 1950 and became the company’s first African American salesman. In 1956, James found a job with the University of Chicago before he was appointed as a deputy director with the State of Illinois in 1961. While there, part of his responsibilities involved working on the “War on Poverty.” James then graduated from DePaul University College of Law with his J.D. degree in 1963. James was hired by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1967 and became the first African American attorney to be hired by that organization. He worked at the ABA until 1984.

In 1967, James became the first African American homeowner in Winnetka, Illinois. Soon after moving to Winnetka, James became involved in groups that were forming on the North Shore to promote better race relations and open housing. In 1967, James and his wife, Mary, established Together We Influence Growth (TWIG) Day Camp that brings together children from South Side neighborhoods and children from the North Shore. In 1972, James helped found the North Shore Interfaith Housing Council (now the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs), which is organized to fight housing discrimination. In the late 1980s, James was appointed as an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Labor. In 1990, James went into private practice as an attorney and remained there until 2000. In 2009, James, along with more than one hundred other Tuskegee Airmen, attended the Inauguration Ceremony of President Barack Obama.

Army Air Corps Officer Lt. David F. James was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 21, 2013.

James passed away on July 23, 2016.

Accession Number

A2013.201

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/21/2013

Last Name

James

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

F.

Organizations
Schools

De Paul University School of Law

Loyola University Chicago

Lane Technical College Prep High School

McCosh Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

David

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

JAM06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin

Favorite Quote

Don't look back. Someone might be gaining on you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/17/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Tempura Fried Calamari

Death Date

7/23/2016

Short Description

Military officer and lawyer David James (1923 - 2016 ) served as a Tuskegee Airman with the 332nd Fighter Group. In 1967, James was employed as the first African American attorney at the American Bar Association.

Employment

Alterman Drug Store

Burroughs

University of Chicago

State of Illinois

American Bar Association (ABA)

Department of Labor

Delete

Favorite Color

Light Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of David James' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - David James lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - David James talks about his mother's education and career as a teacher in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - David James talks about his mother's personality and his maternal grandfather's business in St. Louis

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - David James talks about his maternal family's migration from New Orleans, Louisiana to St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - David James talks about his mother's upbringing in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - David James talks about his maternal grandmother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - David James talks about his maternal grandparents marrying in St. Louis, and his grandmother's death

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - David James discusses his maternal family's Creole heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - David James talks about his mother's personality and her sheltered upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - David James talks about his father's personality and his goals and ambitions

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - David James talks about his siblings' education and his own likeness to his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - David James talks about his father's Native American heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - David James describes his earliest childhood memories in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - David James talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - David James talks about the high achievers in his neighborhood of West Woodlawn in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - David James talks about the high achievers in his neighborhood of West Woodlawn in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - David James talks about the smells of growing up in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - David James describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - David James talks about his family's mealtimes together and attending Holy Cross Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - David James describes his experience in elementary school, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - David James describes his experience in elementary school, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - David James describes his decision to attend Lane Technical College Prep High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - David James describes his experience in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - David James describes his commute to high school and his extracurricular activities in school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - David James talks about his high school friend, Jim Onitas, and his decision to attend Loyola University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - David James talks about becoming interested in aviation while he was in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - David James talks about the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, during World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - David James talks about African Americans training for and serving in World War II, in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - David James talks about being drafted into World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - David James talks about his trip from Chicago, Illinois to Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - David James talks about his trip from Chicago, Illinois to Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - David James describes his experience at basic training at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - David James talks about his pilot training with Alfred "Chief" Anderson

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - David James talks about Alfred "Chief" Anderson, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's visit to Tuskegee Airfield

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - David James talks about his first solo flight and reflects upon flight training school

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - David James talks about relying on instrumentation in flying planes

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - David James talks about Albert Stewart, the first African American admitted to the U.S. Navy's Officer Training Program

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - David James talks about race relations stationed at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - David James talks about becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army and serving in Europe with the 15th Air Force

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - David James talks about the fighter planes he flew during his assignment in Europe with the 15th Air Force

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - David James talks about the engineering of the fighter planes flown during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - David James talks about the end of World War II in 1945, and the end of his tour in 1946

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - David James talks about returning to Loyola University, graduating in 1946, and the Great Migration during the 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - David James talks about meeting his wife in 1946

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - David James talks about his wife and their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - David James talks about being hired as the first African American salesperson at Burroughs Corporation

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - David James talks about working at the University College at the University of Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - David James talks about his role as the Minority Representative of the State of Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - David James talks about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King's visit to Chicago in 1964, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - David James talks about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King's visit to Chicago in 1964, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - David James talks about becoming the first African American attorney to work at the American Bar Association and to purchase a home in Winnetka, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - David James talks about his decision to move to Winnetka, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - David James talks about his children transitioning into their new schools in Winnetka, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - David James talks about his and his wife's involvement in community activities in the North Shore area of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - David James talks about his service as an administrative law judge for the Department of Labor, and his private law practice

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - David James talks about attending President Obama's inauguration with the Tuskegee Airmen, the "Dodo Club" and his high school alumni meetings

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - David James talks about his children's education and their careers

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - David James talks about his grandchildren

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - David James reflects upon his legacy, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - David James reflects upon his legacy, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - David James talks about his high school history teacher, Dr. Walner

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - David James describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$7

DAStory

1$3

DATitle
David James talks about Alfred "Chief" Anderson, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's visit to Tuskegee Airfield
David James talks about his and his wife's involvement in community activities in the North Shore area of Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
Okay. Mr. James, you were just talking about [Alfred] "Chief" Anderson before our break. I asked you what you thought about him, you know, as a person and an instructor of, whatever he was.$$He was partly responsible for the fact that the Tuskegee Airmen--. He was a guy--there was a--Tuskegee had a civil, civilian aide program. And he taught there. And a very distinguished white lady visited Tuskegee. Her name was Eleanor Roosevelt.$$President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt's wife, right?$$Yes.$$Thank you.$$And she had heard the legend that African Americans weren't intelligent enough to fly. And she heard about this experiment that Tuskegee. No, wait a minute. The general was telling me that. She asked somebody, "Why aren't there African American pilots?" "Oh, no, they can't. They're too dumb. They're not, they don't have any intelligence to fly." But she had read about this civilian air program at Tuskegee. She was a contributor. "This doesn't make sense." So, being Eleanor, she arranged to go to Tuskegee Air and see what this program was all about. And though--she asked Chief Anderson, "Would you take me up?" (laughter) And she did, and he did. And the rest, of course, is history. You know, she told Franklin, you know, (laughter) of all the tricks these guys are trying to tell me--of all the myths I had to--I just--you know--(laughter). And it became (unclear).$$Well, thanks for telling me that story and confirming it, because sometimes people think those are just legends.$$No, this is a fact. That's Eleanor.$$And I think during the pause you also said that Chief Anderson trained more pilots--$$Right.$$At Tuskegee.$$Than any other person, yeah, responsible for it.$And your wife [Mary Gallaway], both of you apparently became very active, maybe in part because she was radicalized before, in North Shore community activities. One in particular was TWIG, "Together We Influence Growth." And I'll talk about another one in a little bit. But what was that about, TWIG? Was it a day camp or?$$It was a day camp. But more than that, my kids were--having been dropped among all of this privilege, wondered about, "What about my kid? What about my friends back on Indiana Avenue? What about them? You know, they don't have, you know, this." And so, we invited--we got together a group of kids through the public school system in Winnetka [Illinois], using their facilities. Eventually, I began a summer camp where we invited children from the south side to a day camp--an eight week day camp where they--and it has its own history. But it has survived.$$It still exists today?$$Oh, we have a--we had a problem getting suburban campers initially when we started out. This year we had 125 campers, probably 75 white, and the rest of them from the city. Unfortunately, it's become--fortunately--we used to draw from the various public housing projects. And now, the base is in the Jackson Park Highlands. (laughter) It's become a middle class thing, just about.$$And I think you were talking about Dr. [Martin Luther] King before, speaking at the Village Green. Was that Winnetka's? Where was the Village Green when he spoke?$$Oh yeah, in Winnetka, right.$$It was back in the mid-60s [1960s]?$$Uh huh.$$Okay. And there was another organization that you helped found, the North Shore Inter-Faith Housing Council. What was that?$$Well, the whole purpose was to attract, open up, the communities on the North Shore to people of color. And it's still going. And I got into all kinds of activities that--making housing opportunities available to people who would not otherwise have that opportunity.$$And that's in the North Shore?$$It's based in Winnetka.$$Right.$$Right.$$But in terms of sort of trying to help African American or other folks of diverse backgrounds--you're talking about the North Shore--$$Right.$$--and integration?$$Right. Opening up the communities and making them welcoming.$$Excellent.