In Memoriam: Mrs. Ray James
Mrs. Ray Goddard James, who passed away recently, was a pioneer plants woman in Eugene and helped to found the Rhododendron Garden at Hendricks Park in 1951. She has left us a great legacy at Hendricks Park where her interest and enthusiasm continued throughout four decades. Mrs. James was the Rhododendron Garden's most generous contributor.
Mrs. James was born December 31, 1905 in Nebraska and moved in 1910 with her family to Cottage Grove, Oregon. Ray, married Roy Graham, and, although it was during the depression, good fortune made it possible for them to purchase property and build a small house neighboring Hendricks Park. In 1938 Roy Graham passed away. It was somewhat more than a year later that the paths of Del James and Ray Goddard Graham came together and they were married.
Del and Ray James had a natural interest in growing plants, and when Ray planted two rhododendrons, 'Gomer Waterer' and 'Dr. Dresselhuys,' which she had received as gifts, Del's interest in rhododendrons was sparked and a wealth of plant collection, hybridizing and introduction followed. During the 1940's the Jameses became fellows of the Royal Horticultural Society and in 1944 were among charter members of the American Rhododendron Society. In 1950 Del and Ray James were among the founding members of the Eugene chapter, ARS, and suggested the creation of the Rhododendron Garden at Hendricks Park.
During the decades of Del and Ray's efforts to collect and hybridize rhododendrons they became familiar with other pioneer plantsmen and women. Ray James was an avid correspondent and from 1945 until 1951 she exchanged letters with Charles P. Raffill, Curator of the Kew Gardens in England, which led to great introductions in local and west coast horticulture. These letters, compiled with the help of Mrs. Amy Hitchcock and Mr. James Blackford, are now part of the Lane County Pioneer Museum's collection along with the history of the Eugene chapter, ARS.
Through correspondence Ray James became familiar with rhododendron gardeners in England, New York and the few pioneering west coast gardeners, including Mrs. Chauncey Craddock of Eureka, California, Halfdan Lem of Seattle, Washington, Mrs. Rae Berry of Portland and Dr. and Mrs. Paul Bowman of Fort Bragg, California. In her own brief autobiography, Ray James stated: "It is amazing what lasting and valuable friendships can be made via a postage stamp!" The Jameses were particularly indebted to James Barto. At the Barto farm near Junction City, Oregon many of the Eugene area rhododendron growers saw and purchased their first rhododendron hybrids and species.
Mrs. James contributed 1,200 rhododendrons to Hendricks Park following the death of Del James in 1964. They included many original James' hybrids and selected rhododendron species. Many other plants from the James home were sent to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, and to Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Plants which originated with Del and Ray are now known around the world, and continue to be introduced through nurseries. Their significant contributions are recorded at the Rhododendron Species Foundation, in Federal Way, Washington and their successful "parent" plants are being used to hybridize the next generations of rhododendron hybrids. Mrs. Ray James was awarded a Bronze Medal by the Eugene chapter, ARS, in 1980.