By JOEL McNEECE
Naomi James has worked a number of jobs during her life, but the one she’s had the longest she didn’t even want originally. James, 83, is retiring after 27 years as librarian at the Calhoun City library. She was first hired in October of 1984, but it took a lot of convincing by June Murphree, editor of the Monitor-Herald newspaper and a member of the library board at the time, to get her to accept.
“I didn’t want it because I didn’t know anything about it,” James said.
James was raised on a farm near Gore Springs and was never a stranger to hard work. Among her many occupations over the years was at a lumber company, at the county co-op, and sewing the thumb into gloves at a factory in Eupora.
“That was the hardest job I ever had,” James said.
As a teenager she worked at a Walgreen’s in Jackson where she and her sister, Helen Lackey, would go and stay with family.
“We left the country for Jackson,” James said with a grin. “We always loved Jackson.”
James also worked as a secretary at Spring Hill School, Valley Gas, and was a longtime bookkeeper at Calhoun Academy.
“I’ve probably had 13 or 14 jobs,” James said. “I always enjoyed working.”
James found her true calling, however, when she stepped into the Calhoun City library where she has been serving the public for more than a quarter-century.
“I’ve learned so much working at the library,” James said. “My husband and sons all earned masters degrees. I didn’t get to go to college, but I always told them I knew more than them working at the library.”
Her husband, the late Curtis James, was a longtime county agent for Calhoun County. Her oldest son, the late Terry James, served the county for 15 years as county attorney. Her son, Harold, works with attorney Edward D. Lancaster in Calhoun City.
Among James’ best memories from her years at the library are the many programs she has hosted.
“I remember when we had John Grisham come for a book signing,” James said. “That was a big thing. I remember when he had only sold 18 books and now he’s a billionaire.”
Among her other favorite programs through the years were a performance by the Jackson Symphony String Quartet; a concert by Ada Pryor Buford and Lee Pryor Ulhorn; Elizabeth James Hester with Southern Living magazine; slide exhibit on the Titanic as presented at The Pyramid in Memphis; Charles “Chuck” Hill from NASA; local writer Pam McPhail and several other area authors.
“I’ve really enjoyed the children over the years,” James said. “They’ve always been good to me.”
She saved a stack of letters children had written her through the years after visits to the library.
“I love going back and looking at these,” she said flipping through the handwritten letters.
“We have a good library here,” James said. “We stay busy.”
She said she’ll miss that as she retires, but doesn’t plan on becoming a stranger to her old workplace.
“I’m still going to come to the library and check out books,” James said.