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James "Jim" Graham was born July 29, 1922, in Akron, Ohio, and grew up in Michigan. His father had served in the military in Europe during World War I and returned a convinced pacifist. Later, his father was asked to be pastor of the local community church in Grant, Michigan, and led a Danish-type folk school there. Jim attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison. During the late 1930s and 40s, it was not easy for a young man to be a conscientious objector, but Jim convinced his draft board and performed alternative service during World War II. He worked for about a year, putting out forest fires and planting trees in Oregon. Then, as one of 32 volunteers, he spent 18 months in the Semi-Starvation program at the University of Minnesota, helping scientists to see what effects long term starvation would have on people and what the best treatments for them would be, in anticipation of the release of concentration camp survivors. This study is still cited in currently used nutritionist texts.
After World War II, he worked in the United Nations Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Assistance program, tending cattle and horses on ships going to Poland. Subsequently, he was a part of the American Friends Service Committee’s program working with disabled refugees from Spain in southern France.
In 1948, he returned to Wisconsin to finish his B.A. and began graduate work in International Relations.
Beginning in 1951, he worked for eighteen years in the U.S. State Department of U.S. Information Agency in various capacities and at various posts including Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Mexico, Bi-national Center Director in Chile, Cultural Attache in Venezuela, a tour in Washington, DC, and Public Affairs Officer in Guyana. He resigned in 1968, seven years before eligibility for a pension, rather than be assigned to Vietnam during the war. After a year of looking for work, he became the Foreign Student Advisor and then, Director of International Services, at Colorado State University where he also served eighteen years. He resigned to devote more time to his interest in computers, particularly creating an Internet connection for the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (now Association of International Educators) in which he was active.
For years he taught and ran the folk dancing at Colorado State University and sold folk dance records on the side. He also taught for years at the Lighted Lantern Folk Dance Camp.
He is survived by his wife Jane Graham of Fort Collins, Colorado, and four children: Bruce Graham of New Zealand, Margaret Graham Haass of Germany, Susan Graham Mack also of Germany, and Barbara Graham of Fort Collins. He also is survived by nine grandchildren. Jim was a courageous and exemplary man. He was especially drawn to cultures other than his own and was a dedicated Quaker.
In his last years, he was confined to a wheelchair and was always accompanied by his wife, Jane. Jim died August 6, 1997 at the age of 75.
Dances Jim taught included Ais Giorgis, Ajde Lepa Maro, Bat Tsurim, Bela Kawe, Croatian Waltz, Čukaričko Kokonješte, Das Fenster, Hora Fetelor<, La Faira de Strada, La Resbalosa, Lepa Moja Milena, Mangupsko Kolo, Nebesko Kolo, Poskakuša, Sarajevka, Spinnradl zu Dritt, Srbijanka, Sudmalinas, Ya Abud, Zaječarka, and Zaplet Kolo.
In Viltis magazine of January-February 1990, Karen Deal Robinson wrote a poem dedicated to Jim on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Colorado State University Folk Dance Club. It was written on October 7, 1989 and goes to the tune "Away with Rum."
HOORAY FOR JIM
We're hopping, we're stepping, our brave little band.
In the line of direction we now take our stand.
The waltzes and polkas aren't nearly enough.
We like pravos and hambos and other neat stuff.
Hooray, hooray for Jim, by gum,
For Jim, by gum, for Jim, by gum.
Hooray, hooray for Jim, by gum,
The song of the Wednesday night folk dance.
We'd rather be dancing than eating cream pies.
The way Jim plays accordion brings tears to our eyes.
He first pulls it out and then gives it a squeeze,
And his fingers do kolos right there on the keys.
We'd rather be dancing than singing this song.
It's time it was over, it's getting too long.
So start up the music, join hands in a line,
And with Jim as the leader the dance will be fine.