Harry James

Harry James, right, was active in the Foothill Club for the Blind. In 1946, he arranged a benefit for the club. The man on the left is unidentified. (Courtesy of the Special Collections, Glendale Public Library and Foothill Club for the Blind / August 24, 2012)

When Harry A. James died in 1956, his obituary in the Glendale News-Press noted that the chapel of Sacred Memories at the L.G. Scovern mortuary was filled with the many friends he had made during his career in radio, as a recording artist, and later as a very active volunteer in several of Glendale’s leading civic and philanthropic groups.

James, who was born in England, came to Glendale in 1922. He worked in radio and in 1927 helped open radio station KELW.

KELW was begun by Burbank real estate developer Earl L. White, who used his initials to name the station. On the station’s inaugural night, many dignitaries were on hand and no doubt James was on the air. He managed the station for three years. The station soon increased its coverage and at one point could be heard as far away as New York City. For more on KELW, visit www.radioheritage.net.

James also opened a radio station in Santa Barbara for the Columbia Broadcasting System; at the height of his career he was heard on 456 radio stations. Plus, he was a recording artist; his rendition of the Gettysburg Address was released by Brunswick in 1924. You can find out more about this recording on www.authentichistory.com.

James and his wife Alice moved to the 1100 block of Linden Avenue shortly after they arrived here. They were both very active in the community. They helped found the Foothill Service Club for the Blind in 1940 and remained involved in that group for many years. Not only did he serve as executive secretary of the club, he and Alice founded and guided the Cypress Social Club for the Blind in Glendale and the Normandy Club for the Blind in Los Angeles, according to the News-Press, February 2, 1956.

He also served as stage manager of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra Association, remaining in that position until shortly before his death at age 69.

Another local group that benefited from his talents was the Glendale Historical Society. In 1952 he played an important role in installing the first historical marker for the city.

In his dual roles as a director of the historical society and as president of the Old Settlers Society, he presented a bronze monument, marking the home of J.C. Sherer (a significant local pioneer) to Legory O’Loughlin, president of the historical society. The marker still stands at the corner of S. Verdugo Road and E. Windsor Road, on an easement granted to the city by Sherer’s widow, Caroline.

During his years in the historical society, James used his skills and connections as a recording artist to preserve the recollections of many Glendale pioneers by recording each interview. These recordings are stored at the Glendale Public Library and are available to the public.

James was recognized for his contributions to the community in 1951 when he was awarded a Citation for Service. The awards were presented by the historical society following secret balloting throughout the city.

Historical Society Citations

In 1952, the Glendale Historical Society celebrated its second annual Citation Week.

According to the Glendale News-Press and the audio from the event, the honorees were selected “in recognition of the accomplishments that have given them credit to themselves as well as the community in which they live.’’

The audio features brief interviews with the honorees from 1952 and also from 1951 (there was no ceremony the prior year) conducted by Charles Hamilton of radio station KFI, with Paul Duncan serving as the master of ceremonies. Harry James and Legory O'Loughlin assisted Hamilton in introducing the 1951 citation recipients.

Highlights of the program include interviews with former Brooklyn Dodger Babe Herman; 1957 Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hanks; Caroline Sherer, wife of Calvin Sherer, early Glendale historian and pioneer; and a spontaneous rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” to close the event.

The website includes a list of the recipients.