Robert Edsel's Blog

Archive for October, 2012

Departed Hero: Monuments Man James A. Reeds

October 12th, 2012 | 3:35 pm


(James Reeds, second from the left and standing up, and the Monuments Men being honored at the Congressional Resolution Ceremony on June 6, 2007)

Monuments Man Jim Reeds has passed away at the age of 91. Reeds began his service with the Monuments Fine Arts and Archives in France under the direction of Monuments officers Lt. Comdr. George Stout and Maj. Bancel LaFarge. He was one of the earliest members of the MFAA. Following the Allied victory, Reeds was stationed at Wiesbaden, Germany and at U.S. Forces European Theater Headquarters in Frankfurt-Hoechst. As chief clerk for the office, Sergeant Reeds responded to incoming messages regarding works of art that had been discovered in the field. After his discharge from the U.S. Army, he then accepted a position as a medical supply officer for Allied Military Government working as a civilian.

Prior to his military service, Reeds was a pre-medical student at the University of Iowa. His knowledge of the German language placed him in the Army Specialized Training Program as an interpreter. He resumed his college education upon returning home from Germany. In 1947 he graduated with a B.A. in German. He received his M.A. in German in 1949, and later his M.A. in linguistics and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Michigan, in 1959 and 1966, respectively.

From 1952 to 1958, Reeds taught at Penn State, and spent the 1956-57 school year as a Fulbright teacher in Detmold, Germany. He worked at the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit while studying for his Ph.D. From 1966 to 1969 he taught as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. Reeds began his long career at the University of Missouri –Kansas City in 1969, and was named associate professor emeritus upon his retirement in 1990. He traveled to Poland in 1984 to teach as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Lodz. Reeds later moved to Kansas City,Missouri with his wife Hedy, whom he met while serving in the MFAA.

(James Reeds,  second from the left, Robert Edsel, the Monuments Men and President George W. Bush at the 2007 National Humanities Medal Ceremony at the White House)

On June 6, 2007, the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, Jim was one of four Monuments Men who attended the ceremony at the United States Senate to celebrate the unanimous passage of Resolutions by both Houses of Congress that for the first time honored the service of the Monuments Men. Later that year, Jim and three other Monuments Men returned to Washington on the occasion of the Monuments Men Foundation’s receipt of the National Humanities Medal from President Bush. Prior to the medal presentation, the Sergeant-at-Arms read aloud the citation: “For sustained efforts to recognize the contributions of the scholar-soldiers of the Second World War. Our civilization is forever indebted to a handful of men and women who, in an era of total war, rescued and preserved a precious portion of the world’s heritage.”

Seeing Jim and the other Monuments Men receive these long overdue tributes filled everyone in attendance with joy. A long held dream was realized. I will always treasure the memories of those days, especially the opportunity to befriend Jim and his lovely wife, Hedy.

With the passing of James Reeds, there are now just seven living Monuments officers.