James Edward Carr Jr. was “found” in mathematics but later earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a law degree. He taught high school math, practiced law, and later became a distinguished district judge in Michigan.
Jim was born in Charlotte, MI to Leah and James E. Carr Sr. Under the influence of his father and uncle, he became an outdoorsman (hunting, fishing, and camping) at an early age. In high school, he played all sports, excelled in golf, and graduated in 1954. Then, he spent two years at the University of Michigan, enlisted in the Army, studied at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, and entered West Point on July 2, 1957.
Two weeks later, Jim injured his knee while playing soccer on the Plain, which led to surgery in September and a month in the hospital. This absence and the subsequent physical rehabilitation created problems for Jim in maintaining his academic assignments. In January 1958, he was declared deficient in math and was separated in May 1958 after failing the math re-examination. Jim spent his remaining Army time training troops at Fort Jackson, SC and as a member of the Old Guard at Fort Myer, VA. His favorite story about events there was being allowed to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
After his discharge, he entered Michigan State University, earning a B.S. degree in physics, and worked a variety of summer jobs, including one as a deck hand on a Great Lakes ore boat. In 1962 he married Judith Kumfer and spent a year teaching high school math during which time he decided to go to law school. In 1966 Jim graduated from the University of Minnesota law school as a member of Phi Delta Phi, an honorary legal fraternity. Returning to Coldwater, MI, he practiced law for several years before being elected the Branch County district judge. At that time he was the youngest judge in the state. Although he was later re-elected for a six-year term, he grew restive and longed to be more a part of the action as a lawyer on the other side of the bench, so he resigned. During this period a son (James) and daughter (Rachel) were born, and Jim felt that a better quality of life awaited the family elsewhere. A return to his wife’s small hometown in Northern Michigan beckoned and a move to Cadillac, MI ensued.
Jim became a small-town, general lawyer. As time passed, his courtroom practice thrived and took center stage, taking him over the northern half of the state. In retirement he returned to the bench as a visiting judge and was very active in community affairs. He served in many ways and in many organizations but was most devoted to the school board, and in this position he was able to hand a high school diploma to both his son and daughter. Jim was also involved in conservation organizations, especially the American Chestnut Council, which provides seedlings to help restore the American chestnut tree population.
Throughout the years Jim continued to have thoughts about West Point but had no contact with the school or classmates. However, while on a trip to Peru with Judy in May 2005, the tour group “fatefully” contained an old A-2 classmate (Jim Blesse and his wife, Bobbie), who recognized Jim and “re-found” him. Actually, there was almost immediate recognition between them with lots of fun reminiscing about classmates and West Point during the ensuing two-week trip. Judy described this encounter as an example of serendipity. That November, Jim was the “big” surprise guest at an “A-2” Army-Navy Game weekend party at the Blesse’s house in Smithfield, VA. He was a sensation and all present were delighted to see him again. Jim was like the prodigal son returning and was warmly welcomed and reunited with his A-2 “Band of Brothers.” He became active in company and class activities. In October 2006, Jim attended the Class of 1961’s 45th Reunion at West Point, and, in October 2009, he attended an A-2 mini-reunion in Virginia’s Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown). Judy said that “reuniting with A-2 was such a joy for Jim,” as it was for his classmates!
With retirement, Jim was able to return to the outdoor life that had been such an important part of his childhood. He became a fly fisherman and tied flies. He gardened, canned and froze produce, and cooked. He traveled. His children produced five grandchildren for him. Sadly, in April 2013, Jim lost his battle with cancer, but, in retrospect, his life was balanced. He was happy, and he was lucky. All who knew Jim Carr will miss him.
Well done, Jim! Be Thou at Peace.
Jim’s Wife and Companymates