Meeting the moment

Rather than leave a gift for the League in his estate, Dr. Reid S. James decided to pay it forward now

Portrait of a person at a desk in a room beneath large landscape photographs of redwoods
Generous League member Dr. Reid S. James surrounds himself with images of the redwood forest in his Illinois home. Photo by Gary Stoltz.

I met Dr. Reid S. James on the Skunk Train in Mendocino County on one of his latest trips to the redwoods. A modest man from Illinois, he said to me as I sat down next to him, “I’m just here for the ride and to see the redwoods.” After what turned out to be a long, inspiring conversation, I stayed in touch with him over the years, absorbing his poetic letters in which he shared his philosophies on life and the golden rule as “the genetic basis for human ethics.”

Save the Redwoods League has been so honored to have a relationship with Dr. James. As a member of our Redwood Legacy Circle, he decided last June that rather than leave a gift for the League in his estate, he would pay it forward now to meet the moment in these extraordinary times. We are incredibly grateful for his generous gift to the League.

At 81 years old, Dr. James has not been back to the redwoods in quite some time, but the image and the feeling of the redwoods have made a lasting impression on him. And in turn, his legacy will have an enduring impact on the redwoods.

I share some of Dr. James’ wise words:

“For me, taking a walk in a redwood forest, alone, at a casual pace, for hours, seems to generate transcendental feelings that make me feel a part of me was there in an environment like this thousands of years ago. Some of these trees were present way back then, and some molecules of my body were operating back then too. Our genetics has a history, a traceable history. It is like a visit to some really distant past to a life that resonates some strange familiarity in some sort of incomprehensible, but meaningful way.”

— Dr. Reid S. James


Read more highlights from the Winter 2022 Resilient Future Edition online.

About the author

President and Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 25 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.

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