The James Family asks that in lieu of flowers, you donate in the name of Edward C. James to the Alzheimer’s Association via the following link: http://act.alz.org/goto/Edward_C_James.
EDWARD CORNELIUS JAMES, devoted husband, dedicated father, brilliant electrical engineer, generous volunteer, household “fix‐it” man, spectator sports enthusiast, and life loving extrovert, passed away on February 14, 2022, three days after celebrating his 96th birthday, in Tinton Falls, New Jersey.
Born in Falmouth, Kentucky on February 11, 1926; Edward spent his early childhood years in Covington, Kentucky, which was his father’s hometown. His parents, Edward William and Virginia (neé Logan) James fled the Jim Crow South during the “Great Migration,” ultimately settling with Edward and his younger sister Virginia in New Rochelle, New York.
Edward graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1944 and immediately volunteered to serve in the United States Navy. With the end of World War II, Edward was among those few African American men who benefited from the G.I. Bill, which enabled him to attend Howard University, where he used his powerful STEM skills and abilities to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1952. He was President of his college chapter of the national services fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega.
In the nation’s capital, he met and married Elizabeth Kemp, who was attending the Freedman’s Hospital School of Nursing (now Howard University College of Nursing), where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After graduation, the two moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. Edward, along with four of his Howard classmates, were the first African American engineers to ever work at the Tennessee Valley Authority. Soon after arriving in Tennessee, Edward’s oldest daughter, Debra, was born in 1953, followed by son, Edward Kevin, in 1954.
Edward moved his family back to his native New York in 1954 and ultimately settled in St. Albans, Queens, where his sons, Craig and Gary Aaron, were born in 1962 and 1965, respectively. While in New York, he worked six years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, followed by four years at the Federal Aviation Authority, where he hopscotched around the entire country designing the inaugural instrument landing systems (“ILS”) for many of our country’s major airports. He continued his work as an electrical engineer at Grumman Aircraft Corporation, where he helped to develop the Lunar Excursion Module (“LEM”), which was the actual vehicle that delivered the first humans to the surface of the Moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. In 1966, Edward moved his family to Tinton Falls, New Jersey, where he was recruited as a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth - concluding his career after over twenty years there at the civilian grade equivalent to a Lieutenant Colonel.
Over the decades, Edward paid it forward by working with young people – from coaching little league baseball, to passing on his love for space exploration to his children, to mentoring young engineers, to volunteering in tax preparation at the local library for lower wage workers. Edward and Elizabeth were completely dedicated to raising and educating their four children, with Edward particularly encouraging and supporting them in their study of mathematics and the sciences.
In addition to his children, Edward loved music. For nearly a century, he enjoyed big band swing, to jazz, to Motown, to contemporary rhythm and blues. He was a wonderful dancer up to his last day. Other highlights of his life during the 35 years since his retirement include traveling to Egypt, countless Caribbean cruises, multiple trips to Hawaii, and otherwise celebrating life; all with Elizabeth.
Edward leaves behind his bride, Elizabeth, to whom he would have been married for 70 years this August; his only daughter, Debra; sons, Edward Kevin, and his wife, Michelle; Craig; and Gary Aaron and his partner, Paulina; grandchildren, Edward Brent and his wife, Joanna, Kyra, Amina and Zahira; and great granddaughters, Eden and Olive. Also surviving Edward are his nephews, Fred and Stephen Williams, sons of his late beloved sister Virginia Williams, her grandchildren, Antonio, Aaron, and Virginia and her great grandchildren, Lamani, Aaron Jr, Laryn, and Nigel.