by his sister, Inez
Bob’s sister Inez revealed some of his adventures while growing up.
“He always created something out of nothing…” “He always made things out of anything he found.” “He was focused, dedicated, independent, stubborn and very creative.”
“Bob was about 2 1/2 when I was born. I understand I was always crying as a baby so Bob, who sucked his thumb as a child, thought he would put his "thumb" in my mouth (ugh) hoping I would stop crying. I guess I was happy and soon stopped crying. What a rascal he was! We laughed about this for many, many years…”
“Our mother often read to us a book, in which some of the characters were always seeking adventure. Bob was about 4 1/2 and I was about 2 years of age. So after having this book read to us so many times, Bob decided he and I would visit the corner bar. He held my hand and of course I was a happy little toddler following my big brother, just happy to be going anywhere with him. I idolized my big brother. Well, when we went to the local corner bar, we found one of our great uncles there having a brew (smile)…Talk about a shock! … Uncle Manning looked at us and could not believe his great nephew and niece had sauntered into the bar unchaperoned…Well Uncle carted us off to our house. My mother was shocked to learn we had visited the bar and asked why. Bob told her we were just "seeking adventure.”
Between 8 and 10 years old his independent side emerged. At Christmas, he was given a bicycle and was told “Don’t go far.” Of course his ride took him to a park a few miles away arriving back at home about 5 p.m.
Inez told a story about her brother when he was 12 years old. He made a sculpture from coat hangers to look like a man. He used material dipped in starch to wrap around the sculpture, which stood between four to five feet tall. He painted a face and made hair from yarn. When the meter man went into the basement where the sculpture stood, it scared him so bad that he said he would never come back to that house again.
“During our teen years, especially after I started dating, Bob became my protector, for some unknown reason. Whenever a date rang the doorbell, Bob in all of his 6'7" body would rush down the stairs and yank open the door and say "What!" Of course the poor boy was scared…Thankfully, my husband [to be] was never intimidated… by Bob or Pop…”
by his friend, Cary
“…Bob James and I spent many moments listening to Jazz during our high school years. He was unusual in that he demonstrated an interest in philosophical questions about life, politics and particularly about being black in America. Over the years…we were the go to persons for sharing opinions and beliefs about current events and affairs…
Bob attended Paterson State College while I was in the Marines…with my Marine and college times, plus working…we had little time to hook up. Since I married Betty Ann most of our conversations were carried on via telephone. He too married a couple of years later to, would you believe, a woman named Betty. So we both married Bettys. Prior…Bob and I had been amongst the first employees of the newly established Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) set up by the state Department of Higher Education…in cities across the country during the late 60s and early 70s…He was a program officer and I was the chief fiscal guy."
"…following many months of not communicating with Bob, misfortune struck. Bob came down with a muscular disorder…He and Betty had just had their first child, a little girl. They had a boy a little while thereafter. His affliction progressed so quickly that he shortly became wheelchair bound. It was during these early stages of his immobility that he and I began a regimen of regular telephone calls and conversations about all kinds of stuff, but mostly world events and politics. During this period, I became more acutely aware of the sharp mind Bob possessed. To my regret, it grew progressively more difficult to communicate with Bob. His speech had become quite slurred…His mind was sharp as a tack, he just had trouble talking…[In addition to his artistic abilities, he loved tinkering with his Volvo for he had a knack and love for working on things mechanical]…It doesn’t seem fair…Here is a man who was a star athlete being slowly reduced to living the rest of life in a wheel chair…
Bob was an astute observer of happenings in his environment. He had an amazing ability to analyze and surmise the motivations of political figures and power players, locally, as well as, in state and national affairs…
When I reflect upon this man who was a star high school athlete, a kind, generous and gentle soul, a gifted artist and an intellectual, a black man of courage and conviction, a hip and stylish dresser, I know and feel to be blessed to have had a friend for life like Bob James. He died last year…I am going to miss my Friend.”
Above are excerpts taken from the writings of Bob’s friend, Cary Pittman, III, who allowed us to share his thoughts.