August 31, 2004
Elizabeth James, a fifthgeneration Arizonan whose passion was chronicling and preserving the stories of the "old settlers" of Tempe, died Sunday.
She lived virtually all of her 85 years in Tempe, all within a five-block area near Arizona State University.
In March, James was one of 35 residents chosen as "Tempe Legends" by the Tempe Historical Society. An educator for 37 years, James compiled the 112-page "Tempe Hieroglyphics" and 205-page "Memories of Old Settlers." Both included rich accounts of longtime Tempe residents.
In an earlier era in Tempe, "everybody in town knew who she was because she was a very outgoing person," said Sen. Harry Mitchell, D-Tempe, and former mayor.
It was fitting that James’ longtime home on 13th Street "overlooked the university, the traffic and growth there," Mitchell said. "It is just symbolic of somebody who had their eye out for Tempe."
James was born on June 12, 1919, in the family home, delivered by Dr. B.B. Moeur, a Tempe physician who later became an Arizona governor. While attending Tempe High School, the then-Elizabeth Hampton became a state swimming champion and competed in California for the 1936 U.S. women’s Olympics swim team.
She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1940 and 1943 respectively from ASU, then went to Chicago to enroll at Northwestern University to work on a doctorate, but quickly returned. "Chicago was a shock to me after this little town," she explained.
She married her high school friend, William James, then began 10 years as a teacher and administrator, primarily in the Balsz School District in Phoenix. After serving as assistant principal at Gililland Middle School in Tempe, James spent her last 11 years in roles for the Tempe Elementary School District. She retired in 1979.
Sam Fees, retired Tempe Elementary superintendent, remembered James as "a determined woman. She represented the best of all of Arizona. She expected children to do what they were expected to do and she expected, in her life, to do what she was taught to do." That included being a "good mother, a good teacher and a good member of the community."
Memorial services will be 3 p.m. Friday at Arizona Community Church, 9325 S. Rural Road. Carr-Tenney Mortuary of Tempe was in charge of arrangements.
She is survived by two daughters, Georgia McElvain and Jama Crane, both of Tempe; a brother, Richard Hampton of Emerald, Australia; and four grandchildren.