1988 Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame Inductee
Sons: Clair W., Jr., Floyd Taylor
When the James family moved to Flint in 1920 from East Moline, lllinois, bigotry and segregation confronted them. Rev. C.W. James had taught his children that hard work and respect would take them a long way in life.
C. W. James was 13 years old and very knowledgable, and loved sports. In his years at Central High School, he played football. Remembering his teaching at home he excelled in the classroom and his classmates called him “President.” He demonstrated the importance of hard work and dedication in preparing for whatever you desired to do. Even though Clair was not on the starting team, he was one of the first players in Flint high school football history to play every position on the line. When the opposition made consistent gains at a certain position, James was summoned to stop them…and he did.
AIthough weighing only 165, his performance made him a valued and needed team member. One of the teams he played on, five players received All State selection…Wills, Armstrong, Young, Betts and Brazill. After graduating from Central he played football at Flint Junior College.
In the early 1930’s C.W. began training fighters using an old unheated horse barn on St. John Street as a gymnasium. In 1933 he was a co-founder of the Flint Golden Gloves, and is credited with training hundreds of local youngsters in the art of boxing. In 1936 he became the first Black boxing promoter in Flint. In 1938 he trained the largest number of Golden Gloves participants in Flint, at the St. John Center. One of his achievements, was that he had trained the largest number of champions in the history of the Big Brothers Boxing Tournament in 1938.
His highest achievement was trainer of Flint’s first and only National Golden Gloves Champion, (Benni McComb, 1942), Midwestern Golden Gloves Middleweight Champion, and was also rated the best fighter in the West by New York City sports writers.
He had the most city boxing champions from 1936 -1945. He retired from training fighters in 1952.
Clair James was employed by Robinson and Chandler Funeral Home from 1930-1940. He was part owner of Watkins and James Funeral Home in 1952. He sold real estate from 1953 until his retirement in 1968. He belonged to the Knights of Pythias and Disabled American Veterans.
During his life he welcomed the challenge and opportunity to excell and achieve. From 1930 to his retirement he had inspired this same spirit in other youngsters to excell in boxing and to present themselves as respectable citizens in spite of the many obstacles that would face them in sports and life.
The memory of Clair James accomplishments had gone unnoticed, but will now be a lasting memory in the lives of our youth today. C. W. James passed December 31, 1970.