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David Byron Baldwin James ’59 [’68]

A picture of David James

David Byron Baldwin James ’59 [’68], November 4, 2014, in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

David attended Reed for five years (and also took a graduate course at the college in summer 1969). Called away in his fourth year, due to the death of his father, he completed requirements for a BA in literature in 1968. Says Frances Land Moore ’59, who met David on the train en route to Reed for their freshman year, “At Reed, David was a cheerful, optimistic person, full of boundless enthusiasm and ideas—enjoyable company. On Sundays, when there was no food service in the commons, he was among a small group of us who used to make dinner (macaroni & cheese on a hotplate) in the social room of the New Women’s Dorm (now McNaughton), then sip black tea and take turns reading Winnie-the-Pooh aloud.” David began his studies as a philosophy major, then switched to classics, and took several classes from Prof. Heinz F. Peters [German 1940–59], who instilled in him a deep love of German poetry, says Frances, adding: “He didn’t finish his thesis on time, but nevertheless spent the next year in Göttingen, Germany, on a scholarship. During his stay he enjoyed visiting historic and picturesque towns, drawing new ideas and insights from whatever he experienced.”

Carol Anderson, David’s classmate at Yale, who informed the college of his death, notes that he had a deep respect and affection for Reed and hoped that his children might have the joy of studying at the college. “He spoke of perhaps one day moving back to Portland.” From Frances we learned that David moved frequently and took many short-term jobs, including telephone sales and teaching Evelyn Wood speed reading. She saw him when he was at Yale, pursuing a PhD in literature and “still bubbling with enthusiasm.”

David taught at Baylor in Texas and moved to Santa Fe to be near his children. He taught classes at St. John’s College and worked in other capacities. Central to his life was poetry. “His great personal passions in later years were poetry—several of his poems were published—and Asatru, a revived form of Teutonic religion,” says Frances. “He was a guest speaker at Althing One in 1980, wrote essays on Asatru ethics, value, and rituals, and was invited to speak at AFA gatherings. He also was the first person in modern times to perform the reconstructed Midsummer ritual. Shortly before his death, he was close to completing his magnum opus: a comprehensive analysis of the Teutonic Weltanschauung and the religious values that came from it. Talking about it animated him whenever I came to visit him at his retirement home in Santa Fe.” Survivors include his son Byron; daughters Matilda, Ada, and Willa; and grandchildren Trinity and Serenity.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2015

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