James T. Lanier
Tom Brokaw tells us about “The Greatest Generation,” those men and women who served in WWII. Jim Lanier was part of a slightly later generation of good people who migrated with their parents to the San Joaquin Valley in the 1930s and 1940s. A terrible drought, combined with poor farming practices and high winds, resulted in what was labeled as “The Dust Bowl” across much of Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Kansas. The Dust Bowl lasted for many years and severely limited the ability of most people there to feed themselves and their kids. Many thousands sought a better life in California, hence the “Okie” migration of the ‘30s, which continued into the ‘40s.
Jim’s mom moved her three small children from Oklahoma to Texas and then to western New Mexico before their final move to Bakersfield after WWII. Jim was about 13, his sister Mozelle 11, and brother Sam 9. Mozelle remembers Jim shining shoes to help support the family and that he was the baby sitter while mom was at work. She also remembers the family living in a trailer park on Union Avenue with community showers--their first home in Bakersfield.
Jim graduated from Bakersfield High in 1952 and immediately joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17. After the Navy, Jim and Laura married and raised three fine children, Dean, Debbie and Darla. After the Navy, Jim held several jobs and conducted several business enterprises to support his growing family. He found a long term home with the Sheriff’s Department where he served over ten years as a bailiff, mostly in the court of Judge Walter Osborn. In the late ‘60s he began his study of the law at LaVerne School of Law. I’m sure Jim occasionally perused a law book or two during the day, with Walter’s permission, but he always fulfilled his duties.
Jim will always be remembered for his incredible dedication to his goal of becoming a lawyer. Jim did not have a college degree. Yet, with a young family at home and a full time day job, he drove to Los Angeles on weekends and nights for years. He owned a well worn Volkswagen when he started law school. For the next several years, he traveled 250,000 more miles in that VW. He accomplished his goal and was admitted to the Bar in 1971. Jim practiced law with Byrum, Kimball and Lanier for a number of years and was a solo practitioner until his retirement.
Jim loved the great outdoors. One of my good memories of Jim is a hiking trip on the Upper Kern. We encountered a rattlesnake. Jim pulled a weapon from his backpack that resembled a cannon and left the poor snake in bite size pieces. With rattlesnakes, Jim thought there was no such thing as overkill.
Jim will also be remembered for sharing his time and talents during his retirement years. Jim believed that God loves all of us and he shared that belief with countless visits to prison inmates, no doubt influencing many to change the direction of their lives.
Jim is survived by his three children, five grandchildren, his sister Mozelle and his dear friend Mary Eddy Bussell.
by Kenneth T. Byrum, Esq.
This article was printed in the February 2011 edition of the Res Ipsa Loquitur.
The obituary printed by the Bakersfield Californian can be found here.