Jim Bower (1921 — 2004) had a knack for seeing possibilities and imagining how things could be better. He was born and raised in Greenville, a small town in Michigan’s heartland. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jim served in the Army Air Corp’s 44th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group, 1st Wing. Jim landed at Normandy during the Allied invasion on D-Day. He reached Paris in time to see the lights come on for the first time in four years.
Jim left Greenville not long after returning home from the war and headed west to make his fortune. After settling in the South Bay of Los Angeles County, California he married and raised five children. Jim became a builder and a developer. He was modest and meticulous in his work but expansive in his vision. He had a keen ability to know what was right and where things were headed.
In 1967, Jim and his family moved to Santa Barbara, although he continued to work in the Los Angeles area for another twenty years. He had an inquiring mind and explored new ways of thinking. In the eighties and nineties Jim participated in numerous conferences, workshops and discussion groups aimed at developing a new vision for the world and advancing human consciousness. He loved exploring new ideas and cherished opportunities for inquisitive conversation with close friends. His spirit of open exploration is a cornerstone for the work of the Foundation going forward.
MORE ABOUT JAMES SELLECK BOWER
Albert James Bower, Jim’s father, also grew up in Greenville. He joined the Army and served as a field surgeon during World War I. As a country doctor he treated Greenville residents without regard to their ability to pay. Jim’s mother, Carlotta Selleck Bower was a Girl Scout leader who devoted herself to raising the family in a warm environment while making sure they went to church every Sunday. Jim honored his parents through endowed scholarships at the Greenville Area Community Foundation.
Jim followed in his father’s footsteps attending Greenville High School and graduating from the University of Michigan with a B.S. degree in science and math.
Jim’s experience in World War II profoundly impacted the rest of his life. Seeing the lights come on in Paris was a life-changing moment. As he often related later, it represented hope after witnessing such tremendous devastation. Jim was still in Europe when his father died in 1944.
Jim returned to Greenville after the war, but the town wasn’t the same for him after his tour of Europe. With his father gone, Jim felt a sense of restlessness and curiosity.
Jim left Greenville soon after returning home and headed west. When he arrived in Southern California, the Baby Boom was underway. President Truman had promised a home for every GI and a building surge had started that would transform virtually every orchard and empty lot from San Fernando to Long Beach into homes, shopping malls, offices, roads, and factories.
Rising out of the Great Depression, blackout nights, and war rationing, the City of Angels in the Golden State offered boundless opportunities as optimism fueled a drive to make up for lost time. Starting with $5,000 from his mother, Jim made the most of the opportunities that came his way.
After he moved to Santa Barbara, he optioned an incredible parcel of land overlooking the harbor. But when his son asked with some concern what he was going to do with the land, Jim changed course and created an opportunity for the site that become the West Campus of Santa Barbara City College.
Jim understood the importance of being a good father. He took his family on long summer vacations and made home movies in places like the Grand Canyon and Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies.
Jim left home every Monday morning to work in Los Angeles and returned on Thursday evening carrying bags of fruit from roadside stands—oranges, plums, and strawberries. On weekends, he took his children to see vacant lots being graded, then returned with them a month later to walk through the houses as they were being framed. He always kept a pair of work boots and a hammer in his car.
Like many men of his era who grew up during the Great Depression and fought as soldiers during World War II, Jim did not talk much about his feelings nor did he impose his convictions on others. It was said that Jim was a registered Republican who never failed to vote Democrat.
Jim asked many questions but never supposed that he had the answers. Ultimately he was a thoughtful man, quiet and respectful, and filled with deep caring for others.