Biographical / Historical
James A. Grimshaw, Jr., was born in 1940, the only child of James A. and Maurine Grimshaw in Kingsville, Texas. His father retired as a petroleum engineer for Champlin Corporation (current name), and his mother retired as an executive secretary at General Dynamics. Champlin Corporation was the Chicago Corporation in the 1940s, and the family lived on the company lease about forty yards from the King Ranch boundary, near Bishop, Texas. Because the “camp” had been built on a rattlesnake den, Chicago Corporation had imported a large number of Indigo snakes, natural predators of rattlesnakes. Employees and their families were warned that anyone caught killing an Indigo snake would be summarily dismissed. Besides rattlesnakes, herds of wild mustangs, mountain lions, javelinas, and other wildlife were part of Grimshaw’s early experiences.
Grimshaw and his mother lived with his maternal grandparents Frances and Thomas on 501 Cole St. in Corpus Christi, Texas, while his father served in the US Army in Italy during WWII and until his father’s transfer to Carthage, Texas, in 1949. His three aunts—Mary Francis, Dean LaRue, and Ray Louise—contributed to his early education; but his Grandmother Frances had the most influence. She taught him numbers by playing dominoes with him on weekends, and she read to him from the family library. He acquired the nickname “Bo” during that time. In the third grade he attended a Roman Catholic school, Incarnate Word, where he studied under the strict discipline of the Sisters who, on more than one occasion, used their lime-green rods to punish him. In Corpus, Bo learned to ride horses, to rope calves, and to swim. His friend, Mike Lowry, lived across the street with his grandparents. His grandfather was manager of the Kress 5-and-10-Cent Store and would surprise both boys with “samples” of the new toys in stock. Mike was a Green Beret in Vietnam; he died of cancer after the war.
When James Sr. was transferred to Carthage, Texas, young Grimshaw started the fourth grade, joined band (trombone), and played catcher in Little League baseball. He also took up hunting and fishing, and he spent a great deal of time in the woods behind their house. His Great-Aunt Marie, who taught middle school for forty-nine years in Detroit, Michigan, would visit. She had an important influence on his love for learning and served as a role model for him in his later teaching career. His paternal grandmother, Charlotte Grimshaw, worked for Time magazine in Chicago; her husband, an RAF pilot in WWI, died in 1920. Grimshaw would travel by train to Chicago to visit Char, who took him to watch the Chicago Cubs, to visit the Museum of Natural History, and to see the horse races. There he encountered life in a big city and acquired a longing to travel.
In 1955 his father was transferred to Fort Worth, Texas. Grimshaw attended Paschal High School and managed the fifth-floor swimming pool at the downtown Hilton Hotel (formerly the Blackstone Hotel). At Paschal he helped start the swimming team and began competitive swimming. In 1958 he attended Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) on a swimming scholarship. He began as an electrical engineering major at Tech, changed to a math major his sophomore year, and at the end of his junior year changed to an English major with a goal to teach at the United States Air Force Academy. The end of his junior year was significant for another important reason: He and Glenda Darlene were married in 1961. He minored in mathematics and philosophy. After graduation in 1962, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the USAF and received an educational delay to work on his M.A. With the added responsibility, he graded papers for the math and philosophy departments, was a teaching assistant in English, and night manager of the Tech Student Union. The summer before he was commissioned, he sold steel for the Lubbock Steel Company. He entered active duty in 1963 and was stationed at James Connally AFB, Waco, Texas; 2nd Air Division (later 7th Air Force), Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam; Mather AFB, Sacramento, California; and the USAFA, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He retired a Lieutenant Colonel in 1983. He received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 1972. He and Darlene have two children, Courtney Anne and James A. IV.
That year, 1983, Grimshaw joined the faculty at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) as head of the Department of Literature and Languages. He stepped down as head in 1990 to return to full-time teaching. In 1997 he was named General Editor of the Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, a newly created series under the auspices of the TAMU Press. In his eight years service in that capacity, he helped acquire and oversee the publication of thirteen titles. He fully retired from academe in December 2005, with a total of thirty-five years in higher education.
Grimshaw’s scholarly and teaching pursuits have been varied. His doctorate at LSU was in British literature with a minor in American literature. He did his dissertation under Lewis P. Simpson, then co-editor of the Southern Review (new series), on Robert Penn Warren. His work on Warren continued throughout his academic career. However, during his thirteen-and-one-half years at the USAFA he served as Director of Freshman Composition, Director of Technical Writing, Director of Honors Courses, and Director of Advanced Courses; he has taught graduate seminars on Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Robert Penn Warren; modern American literature and contemporary American literature; and bibliography. Besides the undergraduate courses in American literature and British literature, he has taught Shakespeare, an interdisciplinary humanities course, and five philosophy courses. His versatility in the classroom stems from his wide-ranging interests and his love for learning. For his teaching and scholarship, he has been awarded numerous awards, including two Regents Professorships—the first by ETSU and the second by the TAMU System.
He has written and edited ten books, numerous articles and notes for professional journals, more than one hundred book reviews, and has published some of his poetry as well. He was a founding editor (with William Bedford Clark) of RWP: An Annual of Robert Penn Warren Studies at Western Kentucky University, where he served on the Advisory Group to the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies for seventeen years (chair for ten years). His research and teaching went hand-in-hand, enabling him to say with confidence to students that “all knowledge is related.”
The collection of his papers serves as a guide for TAMU-Commerce students who are contemplating a teaching career in that the collection is a measure of the ingredients for Grimshaw’s career and gives credence to his advice: “Students should have a fire in their belly for the career they select.”
Dr. James A. Grimshaw, Jr. was generally known to friends and colleagues as “Bo.” However, it appears that his father was also called “Bo” at times, specifically by Dr. Grimshaw’s mother Maurine who in some material here also referred to her husband as “Papa Bo.” Dr. Grimshaw’s son is James A. Grimshaw, III, who seems to be called “Jim” by his family. When “JAG” appears in the collection material it is a brief form of Dr. Grimshaw’s initials.