A famous face visits Elmhurst
James Wall is shown introducing Carter at a home in Elmhurst during a 1976 campaign event. President Carter spent the night at the Wall’s home on May 25, 1978 as a sitting president. Many in Elmhurst then will recall the event as thousands lined the street, according to the Elmhurst Press.

By Dee Longfellow

For The Elmhurst Independent

James McKendree Wall, a longtime resident of Elmhurst, passed away March 22, 2021, at the age of 92.

Wall was born on October 27, 1928 in Monroe, Georgia. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Georgia Tech and became a sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution. He graduated from Emory University with a degree in Journalism, just before the Korean Conflict. He enrolled in the United States Air Force and served in the Alaska Command. He received his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from Emory University and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. An ordained United Methodist minister, Wall served appointments in United Methodist churches in both Illinois and Georgia.

He edited the United Methodists’ Christian Advocate from 1962-72. Subsequently, he served as editor and publisher of The Christian Century in Chicago from 1972 through Feb. 1999. The Century was considered the flagship magazine of U.S. mainline Protestantism. From 1999 through 2008, he wrote a column for The Christian Century, while serving as senior contributing editor. He remained a contributing editor until July 2017. After retirement, Wall began his own personal blog where he continued regular postings at wallwritings.me until this year. Interesting information can still be found there, including many film reviews.

He always managed to find and write about what we called ‘the nuggets,’” his son David told the Independent. “[He found] things that others who wrote about film did not see or he saw connections to current events, that an earlier film explained.

He was asked by Jack Valenti to be a part of the motion picture ratings association’s new system of ratings. He, along with another cleric, would preview the film, often attending the hearings and offering their take.”

It is there that films are given their rating of G, PG-13, R, etc.

After serving several terms as chair of the National Council of Churches Film and Industry Committee, in
1994, Wall was named Special Consultant, Relations with the Motion Picture Industry, for the National
Council of Churches, and was their representative to the appeals board of the Ratings Board of the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theater Owners.

Working with NASA

Wall served as a member of a Bioethics Policy Task Force for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 1994-96. He also served on a special committee of the National Academy of Science that, at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monitored dose reconstruction studies at nuclear weapons processing sites; was a member of the Program Review Committee for Battelle Memorial Institute, which monitored a program that identified a permanent location for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste disposal site; and, was a member of a special committee of the National Academy of Science that produced a 1988 report on the use of animals in biomedical research.

His travels

Wall regularly traveled outside the U.S. while editing The Christian Century. He traveled to Angola, Uganda and Kenya in Africa; Belize, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cuba in Latin America; Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, and Poland, in Europe. He specializes in writing on religion and politics in the Middle East and has made more than 20 visits to Israel and Palestine (most recently, January, 2006).

The Library project in Palestine was a true passion of his.

Wall was a founding co-chair of Friends of Seraj, an organization which develops public libraries in villages in Palestine. He was the first Seraj board president of Friends of Seraj. On Oct. 4, 2019, it was announced that Wall would be named President emeritus of Friends of Seraj. Seraj had been responsible for the creation and support for seven (now 10!) libraries in Palestine. A Wall Seraj Fund has been established to create and support additional libraries in Palestinian villages.

COURTESY PHOTO Elmhurst Independent
Meeting the mighty MLK
Elmhurst resident Jim Wall is pictured speaking with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the mid-1960s. Wall, who passed away on March 22 at the age of 92, had many friends and affiliations with those in national politics and religion. He also had connections in the motion picture industry, serving on the appeals board for MPAA ratings.

Political activism

Jim was active in the Democratic Party, serving in a variety of roles. Wall was chair of the Jimmy Carter presidential primary and general election campaigns in Illinois in 1976 and 1980 and a delegate for Carter at the 1976 and 1980 Democratic National Nominating Conventions. Jimmy Carter even came to Elmhurst and stayed at the Walls’ home.

After serving a term on the Democratic National Committee from 1976-1980, Jim was an unsuccessful candidate for the House of Representatives in 1972. Also that year, Wall was an organizer and chair of George McGovern’s Illinois delegation to the Democratic National Nominating Convention.

In 1983-84, Wall took a six-month leave from The Christian Century to manage Congressman Paul Simon’s successful primary campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.

For both the 1996 and 2000 Democratic National Conventions, Wall served as a consultant to the Illinois Clinton-Gore campaign on delegate selection. He was elected to both conventions as a Clinton delegate from Illinois’ 6th congressional district and was appointed delegate whip for the Illinois delegation. The 2000 convention was his sixth convention as a delegate.

In 1991-92, Wall served as a special advisor to David Wilhelm, national campaign manager of Bill Clinton’s presidential primary campaign, and the Clinton-Gore general election campaign. He was an at-large delegate and a regional floor whip for Clinton at the 1992 convention.

Local community service

Wall served for 14 years as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Elmhurst Public Library before retiring from the board in 2004. He served as both president and vice president of the board, during a period when the city passed an $18 million referendum for a new $24 million library building. The building was opened in October, 2003.

About the family

Wall was the beloved husband of Mary Eleanor Wall since 1953; father of David McKendree (Robin) Wall, Robert Kidder (Renae) Wall, and Richard James Wall; grandfather of Rachel Michelle (Jesse) Welliver, Adam McKendree (Kimmie) Wall, Melissa Grace Wall, and Mariah (Carlen) Cyphers; great-grandfather of Norah Ruth Welliver, Lydia Noelle Welliver, Clara Eden Welliver, and Chance McKendree Wall, and brother of the late Louie D. Wall, Jr. and the late Hughes Wall.

Memorial contributions in his name may be made to Seraj Library Project, at serajlibraries.org, 636 N. Harvey Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302; First United Methodist Church of Elmhurst umcelmhurst.org, 232 S. York Road, Elmhurst, IL 60126; or to the DuPage Foundation dupagefoundation.org/donate/html, 3000 Woodcreek Drive #310, Downers Grove, IL 60515-5408.

Info: 630-834-3515 or www.ElmhurstFH.com.


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