Robert E. James Jr., Becton Dickinson microbiologist

September 06, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Robert E. James Jr., a retired Becton Dickinson Microbiology Systems director and an avid seashell collector, died of leukemia Thursday at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Hampstead resident was 63.

Mr. James opened a consulting business in the medical diagnostics industry two years ago after retiring as director of international regulations and quality development at the Cockeysville company.

Born in New York City, he graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and earned a master's degree in microbiology from the University of Virginia in 1960. His plans to study veterinary medicine were interrupted when Mr. James was drafted into the military.

He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Germany, then did biological research for the Army as a civilian employee at Fort Detrick in Frederick. He joined Becton Dickinson about 1970.

A world traveler, Mr. James often created travel packages for area businesses and for friends. Seashell collecting figured heavily into his own vacations -- a hobby dating to his childhood on Long Island. Many of his favorites are showcased in his home.

"He started collecting when he was 8 years old," said his daughter, Stacy Payne of Catonsville, who remembers family vacations spent combing beaches for shells. "He would study the tide charts and be out at 5 a.m. Every summer, every morning at low tide, we would walk the beaches."

She recalled the discovery of a bed of sand dollars on a beach in North Carolina -- specimens her father cleaned and bleached. He particularly liked the beaches of Sanibel Island, Fla.

"All around the world, he would look for shells indigenous to the area and ones that were unusual," said Ms. Payne, who keeps a collection herself.

Mr. James crafted many items from shells and turned his hobby into a business, selling shell items at the Christmas Farmers' Market at the Carroll County Agriculture Center and at craft fairs.

He was a former president, and treasurer at his death, of the Association of Medical Diagnostics Manufacturers. He also was one of two United States representatives to the International Standards Organization. In 1993, he was named to the Who's Who Registry of Global Business Leaders.

Mr. James served on the board of Carroll Lutheran Village and Carroll Hospice and was a member of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manchester, where services will be held at 11 a.m. today.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 33 years, the former Nancy Higgins, a Carroll County elementary school teacher; a son, Todd R. James of Coral Springs, Fla.; and a granddaughter.

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