James Wright Walker

James “Jim” Wright Walker


compiled and written by Heather Walker Hoyt

words by Jim in italics




I was born on October 7, 1932 in Lehi, Utah in a home near the corner of 200 North and 400 West. It was near the rail station, something that has since been torn down and now the railroad goes through where it was

               Jim was the second oldest of eight children. His father, Calvin A Walker, was a school teacher, a scouter, a gardener, and an outdoorsman. His mother, Mary Lucille Wright (who had also been a school teacher) was a dedicated mother to her eight children and worked hard canning, cooking, sewing, and making a home. He says his mom and dad kept us busy. They set an example for us to follow.

Shortly after he was born, the Walkers moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah, on the northeast corner of 300 East and 100 North, where Jim spent his childhood. The extensive garden in his home in Pleasant Grove included a wide variety of vegetables, fruit trees, chickens, a cow, and a few pigs. Calvin many times did something experimental in the garden and enjoyed working outside.

His first memory was when he was three or four. Dee (my older brother) threw a stick for Grandpa Walker’s dog. He brought it back. Then I threw the stick. He brought it back again. I walked up on the lawn a short distance. Dee threw the stick again and I caught it and that angry dog thought the stick was his. This resulted in a few scars that I still carry.

He ran around with his brother, Dee, so much that his mom tied him and Dee to the tree because they were leaving when they weren’t supposed to.

My brother was my best friend. Everything we did, we did together. Aside from the fact that I tipped the ice box over on him (those days we didn’t have any refrigerators). Also, I swung on a limb and got his front teeth knocked in. Went up Timpanogos together for the first time. First two summers we worked on Timp Cave, we did together. Anything we did up the canyon—we were just like that.

He would spend much of the summer up American Fork Canyon. His father had a deep love for Mount Timpanogos—the mountain itself, the legends relating to it, and Timpanogos Cave. Jim inherited that love and has spent much of his life climbing the mountain or in the cave. He lived for much of his life at the base of that mountain.

He loved the outdoors and spent much of his time camping, hiking, and enjoying nature. All the time outdoors came with risks: when he was seventeen, Jim was bit by a rattlesnake. He was fishing up American Fork Canyon and the snake bit him through his boot.

Jim learned how to work hard. He got a paper route when he was around eleven years old, picking up the papers from the train and delivering them. He would go to relative’s houses and milk cows. He worked in his dad’s garden often, like picking raspberries in June.

As an early teen, Jim was in a situation where he thought about doing something wrong, and the kids with him asked him what his dad was going to do. When Jim said he didn’t care what his dad thought, one of the boys punched him the face and said, “You should care.” They all had great respect for Calvin Walker.

About being a student, Jim recalls, I never got into trouble. I studied and always got fairly excellent grades in grade school and high school. I only flunked one class, and that’s a funny story. . . . I was in the high school band and a paperboy. It was my second year in band, and there was a basketball game I was supposed to play for. Well, I was a paperboy and the papers didn’t come in on time, they came in two or three hours late because of bad weather. I felt that the people I delivered the paper to, they were paying for their delivery. I never got back in time except for to go home and go to bed. The next Monday morning, I got called into the principal’s office and he said, “Where were you when you were supposed to be in band on Friday night?” And I told him what had happened. “Well, the band teacher wants you expelled.” I was expelled from school and I went up and told my dad on my way home (my dad taught school in Pleasant Grove). I told him and he said, “Fine, go home.” I went home and stayed there for the next four or five days, and the truant officer came to see why I wasn’t in school. My mom showed him the paper that I was expelled from school. We had to go down and meet with the judge down in Provo—we met with him with the teacher, the principal, and my parents. The judge asked me what the story was and I told the story, and my parents agreed with the situation as to whether you had an obligation to your customers or to your own studies. The judge put it in a situation where that the principal had to apologize to me and the band teacher apologized to me. I dropped band for the next two years. I never took band again.

In addition to being a paper boy, Jim also started working at the local theater when he turned sixteen, working the projectors upstairs. He did this during college until he was drafted into the military.


1952 thru 1956 — A big change in lifestyle.


               After graduating from high school and a summer of total frustration, I went to college for two quarters at the University of Utah and then because of short funds, worked at Hill Air Force Base for six months to get ahead.

               The next fall [1951] I enrolled at Brigham Young University and attended there for the next year. There was work the next summer where I could live at home and it kept me busy during the summer break. The Korean War was in full swing and about two-thirds of the way thru the quarter, the Draft Board came along and said I was going in the military on December 2, 1952 and offered no way to do otherwise. I was instantly introduced to discipline and as a result dug holes all day long at Camp San Luis Obispo, California, on Christmas Day, 1952. For the next 6 or 7 months, activity was typical for any army recruit. Then it was home on leave for a few days, and back to the Army. My leave is another story for another chapter.

               My parents and my sister wrote me quite regularly and as any military recruit can tell you, these letters were very gratefully received. Others wrote, but none so regularly as Mom, Dad and Mary. Mom was a mother, Dad was also my Bishop, and Mary Jean was just a good ole sister who just cared about me. She kept on saying she had a girl friend just for me that I needed to meet.

               We had a stake conference in San Luis Obispo about the time I got back to duty. The visiting authority interviewed as many of the servicemen as he could. During his interview with me he asked about my marriage plans and what I was doing about them. I told him I had none, but because of the military lifestyle, was quite worried about it. He told me that I would know when the right person came along.

               Just after this my orders came to report to Camp Stoneman, California, for deployment to the Far East. I came home for a week’s leave before I went to Camp Stoneman. This week became the most important week of my life and to this day over 54 years later I still believe it.

               I rode home with Cal Luke, one of my best buddies in the army, who I had met a few years before while wandering thru the mountains east of home, and Dave Buss who was to influence my life after I came to work at BYU. My sister Mary got on my case because I had not looked up her girl friend yet and told me to get going with the program. She would be at work all week, and would come looking for me Friday with fire in her eyes if I hadn’t met Marlene yet.

               It was the end of deer season, and our ward seemed to always have a BBQ at that time of year. Being home on leave, I was asked to dig the pit and do the cooking, something that was fine with me.

               Monday, I went with Mary to Salt Lake and met Marlene’s mother. She informed us that Marlene was in school and living in Provo. Marlene also worked at Glen Brothers Music in the evenings. After I got home that day, I went down to Provo and walked into the music store and looked at all the workers. I liked what I saw and left before anyone could wait on me.

               The next day was BBQ day. The deer and veggies cooked up nice. When the help for the evening showed, I excused myself with the promise that I would return by the time the 7:30 meeting started. I went to the address Marlene’s mother gave me and knocked on the door. Some gal answered the door and I asked for Marlene. Marlene came into the living room and I told her I was Mary’s brother – Jim. She looked quizzically at me and said, “l don’t know any Mary.” I was about to give up and said something about Mary Jean pulling my leg and I turned to go. We, at that point both realized that Mary and Mary Jean were the same. I asked her if she were interested in going to the ward BBQ. She knew a lot of the ward members she had met thru Mary Jean and decided it would be a lot of fun, so she said yes.

               When we got to the ward house, it was time to start, and for a good share of the evening, she went with her friends and I was made a big fuss over by the members who hadn’t seen me for a year. It was also a bon voyage for me from them. We did get a few minutes together before it was over and time to go home. On the way home, I asked her to go up to Midway to a banana split outing the following evening. Only those who know Cal Luke, Don Okleberry, and Parley Robison, know what a banana split outing is. Today, the only place I know of where you can have such an outing, is at the ice cream store in Farson, Wyoming. Anyway, I got another acceptance from her, and the next evening, it was to the Midway ice cream store.

               The next evening at Midway was a lot of fun, good friends, old wire chairs, old metal ice cream containers, and old fashion floors. After good food, and Cal Luke’s good entertainment, we got into Dad’s old ’48 Chev and headed down Provo Canyon. About the time we turned from the old Charleston cut-off onto the canyon road, a voice said to me something like, “Well, now you know.” It wasn’t Marlene, I looked over and she hadn’t heard it, so I began teasing and word jostling with her. When we crossed the head end of Deer Creek Dam, it became obvious that the memory of the unknown voice wasn’t going to leave me, so I pulled over onto the north side parking lot, stopped, and unloaded my mind, not knowing if I believed it or not. “You may not believe it, but someday I’m going to marry you.” Without giving time for a reaction, I let out the clutch, floor-boarded the gas pedal and sped down the canyon. We were at the Wildwood (North Fork) road before anyone said anything. It had been a fast minute or two. When I slowed down, we began to talk again. I had to explain that I didn’t know if I were going to live that long, and would try to behave myself. We had another date that was back to normal and then Cal Luke and I took the bus [not Dave] to Camp Stoneman, California.

               Cal’s assignment was to Japan and mine was to Korea (the land of the morning calm) The trip to Korea from there was uneventful except there was time to study the scriptures for 15 days. This was an opportunity I had been praying for since I had graduated from high school. It was not what I had expected, but it sure was an answer to prayer and a testimony builder.

               My letter writers were now Mom, Dad, Mary Jean, Marlene, and sometimes Dee. I was lucky in Korea.

Jim was sent to Korea in 1953. He says, I have some experience there that I don’t talk about. The result of those experiences included a head injury.

He learned at least two main things in the military. The first was discipline. The second was how to use a camera. Never had a camera until I went into the service. I went around taking pictures of everybody and everything.

               When I got back to the states, I ran into Leon Greene, and Earl Booth, who both were inducted the same day I was. They were going home to use up the rest of their leave before getting out of the military. Their duty had been at Fort Lewis, Washington where I came from Korea. I had to use up my leave time, so I rode home with them. They drove and I rode, each buying 1/3 of the petrol. When we got home, there was a vehicle problem, and so they dropped me at Center and Main in Pleasant Grove about 1 am. I walked the next six blocks home, and very quietly let myself in. I was very tired and so I set down my duffel bag and went to sleep. Then I heard “Calvin! Someone is in the living room.” I heard Dad mumble something. Then the whole scenario was repeated again twice. Then I realized that because of the time sequence of my leaving Korea that my parents didn’t know I was coming home. When Mom repeated herself the third time, she also said. “It’s Jim, I know it is.” Then she came out in the dark and saw me there. From then on it was welcome all the way from parents, three sisters and four brothers.

               I went to see Marlene and we started dating again. In the process of our next quarter in school, we had a class together and also started to get serious about each other. Marlene’s way of telling about asking parents’ permission is very truthful and quite accurate as I remember it. There was a date we had with Dick and Barbara Page in the snow just above Mutual Dell that was very memorable and left all four of us wet, cold and tired. Snow was always fun for us. They were newlyweds and had a good positive effect on us. Marlene got her engagement ring during the Thanksgiving to Christmas period of time.

When they got engaged, he made a snowball and stuck the ring in it. He was at his parents’ house, and put the snowball on her hand so the ring went on her finger. He recalls that she had to go upstairs and show his mother the ring.

               But there were other plans in store for Jim. My Dad had been released as bishop, and we had a new one. He asked me if I wanted to go on a mission because I no longer had a military obligation. I thought it was a great idea. After the paperwork was filled out, and sent in. I went and asked for my ring back.

               Marlene has told the rest of the story. Everything went smooth from there thru the rest of the mission preparation. I left with the Elders I was trained with in early April for Houston, Texas (the mission we all went to [the Texas Louisiana Mission]). My first assignment was Springhill, Louisiana with Elder Harris.

               I’d been having headaches intermittently for some time before I left to go into the mission home. In Louisiana, they suddenly got worse. Later Harris called the mission president and told him how bad he thought I was.

               President Smith (the mission president) took one look, got Elder Harris a new companion and took me back to Houston to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. They were expecting me. They said they had notified the Salt Lake VA to get me to Houston ASAP. Bone was an essential part of what I needed, and here is where they had it. I was in the hospital and cut upon for a few months and then Pres Smith said he was told to send me home. I was given a shot when I left the hospital, put on an airplane, given another shot in Denver, and then flown to Salt Lake City where my parents picked me up and took me home for the weekend. I slept and sweat for two days.

               When I left Houston, I was told to meet with the Mission Home Director, Gordon Hinckley. He said he was releasing me for health reasons and it then evolved into a shouting match. Finally, he said he was doing as he had been instructed. After calming me down, he made me some promises. He said if I would follow the teachings of Christ and live in accordance with his commandments that I would be able to go on a mission with my wife. But now was the time for my body to heal, to get an education, raise a family and learn to live by example.

               I left still in a bit of a bad mood and went over to the Hotel Utah parking garage to pick up the car. Frank Newman who had been one of dad’s Boy Scouts years ago ran the garage was there and sensed my rage. When the car was brought up, he got in the driver’s side and motioned for me to get in on the other side. Then he asked me what happened. I unloaded on him and vented all my frustrations. After I got thru, he asked “Was he right?” I just sat for a minute and then answered “Yes.” Then Frank told me that the rest was up to me. Did I really want to go on a mission bad enough to wait and live right until the Lord decided his time was right and most of all accept the opportunity and blessing of taking my wife with me? The story of what happened is now history.

               By the time I reached Ninth South, I had been touched by the spirit and turned east and drove up and told Marlene what had happened. During the next two weeks of dating we set a date for getting married—14 December, 1955, with a reception two days later. The weather wasn’t the best, but we still got to see each other. We rented an apartment near the University of Utah on 1300 East and I lived there about a week till we were married. On 14 December, 1955 we were sealed for time and eternity by William Waddops in The Salt Lake Temple. The reception was great—even in the fog. There was no honeymoon because of money, health, and weather. This was planned for the following spring right after school was out.

               In our ward, I became assistant scoutmaster, and Marlene was primary chorister. This was on condition that we could go on a honeymoon at the end of the quarter. This meant that I would have no scout camp the summer of 1956. The scoutmaster left with all the funds the scouts had saved and as a result, we went on a trip (as they planned) to Yellowstone Park. ‘We’ included 18 scouts, the Bishop, his second counselor, Marlene and myself. Well, so much for the honeymoon, and was it ever. The only female in camp (4-1/2 months pregnant) got breakfast in bed and was treated like a queen. Every one became her servant.

               We were low on funds, and so in the fall, I took a job at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. This meant being away from Marlene when Jill was born. When she was born, Grandma Call telegraphed me and I came home the following weekend. I was able to name her with the help of the two grandfathers, and the bishop that weekend. On the way back to White Sands, I got my first speeding ticket, but it was worth it. I was now the father of a cute little girl who I have learned to love very much.

               At work, I was having to hand out paychecks to those who were making twice as much as I was. It irritated me, because I was the boss, but they got paid more than me because they had college degrees. It made me even more determined to finish college, and at Christmas time, I took a job at Explosives Research at the University of Utah and started back to school. I had all I wanted at this time in my life—a wife and a baby daughter.




While working as a photographer for the government in White Sands, Jim developed a new photographic process. This earned him a job with the University of Utah and enabled him to finish his college education in 1958. Jim graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Utah.

He and Marlene first bought a home in Salt Lake City, but Jim’s career led to many adventures. From 1962 to 1965, they moved to the St. Louis area, then to Alamogordo, New Mexico, then to Lancaster California, and finally to Florissant, Missouri. One of his first jobs included working for the Hercules Powder Company as a photographic engineer. Then in 1967, a unique opportunity arose that gave Jim the opportunity to move to Pleasant Grove, Utah and work at Brigham Young University, where he worked for the rest of his career.

Jim built his unique career by combining different things that he loved to do. First, he loved to build things. Second, he loved photography. Third, he loved airplanes and flying. When he was a boy, Jim started building model airplanes (which had become a fad during World War II). By the time he was 16 or 17, Jim had become a licensed pilot. Combing these things together, Jim’s career was based around aerial photography.

Jim helped pioneer the fields of photographic engineering, space flight photography, infrared photography, and aerial reconnaissance, including low altitude, large-scale reconnaissance. With his work at BYU, Jim also helped design camera systems for the Apollo missions.

Jim developed and taught others about a method of taking photographs from the sky using remote-control model airplanes. This offered several advantages: it was cheaper, safer, more flexible, and provided extremely detailed images. The method was used for history, archeology, agriculture, and land management. Jim was an expert in all areas of low altitude aerial reconnaissance. He designed radio-controlled model aircrafts. He built a lot of the technology that made it possible. And he could both skillfully fly the planes and take pictures while doing so. He also developed photographs, pieced them together, and was very adept at aerial photography interpretation. He often helped with archeology projects to photograph the sites from the air.

His career at BYU included teaching others, inspiring many others to build airplanes and take aerial photographs, both as a hobby and commercially. He wrote articles and a book on the subject (Low Altitude Large Scale Reconnaissance: A Method of Obtaining High Resolution Vertical Photographs for Small Areas, revised 1995).




Jim’s career led to him travelling the world. He took many trips to teach and help, both around the United States and around the world, photographing geological, archeological, and historical sites.

Jim’s travel abroad includes trips to Israel (in 1978 to work on an archeological dig and teach), India (in 1992-1993 to teach about his method of aerial photography), Mexico, Canada, Africa, and more.

While he was often away from family, he wrote regular letters home to them, talking about his work and experiences. He would talk about living arrangements, daily life, and offer snippets of advice to home.

A postcard dated March 10, 1971, sent from Mexico (labeled “Panoramic view of the museum and the Maya Fountain, Campeche Camp”) says: We arrived well & one day late due to rain. This place is the other half of the world. Half ancient, quaint, etc. The other half new & modern. The days are hot & muggy. We will be here this week & in Carmen next week. Food is fantastically different but good. Jim.

He also loved receiving mail from home. On July 13, 1978, while in Israel, he wrote home to say: The mail has finally got here and raised morale tremendously. While in Israel, Jim had the opportunity to visit many sites of the New Testament, including Jerusalem and Bethlehem. (See the Appendix for a selection of letters written from Israel.)


Father and Grandfather


Jim is the father to six children: Jilleen, born on 22 October 1956; Raymond, born on 15 April 1959; Sharon, born on 21 October 1961; Brenda, born on 19 May 1965; Melody, born on 3 October 1968, and Christopher, born on 16 December 1974. He also has 27 grandchildren and a growing number of great-grandchildren.

As a traveler, Jim not only sent frequent letters home, but let his kids see more of the world through photographs and through his subscription through the National Geographic. They would often pour over the magazine together. And they would travel together too—they especially explored areas around Utah.

Jim taught his children, being involved in 4-H projects such as photography and other projects in scouting and school. Jill says, “Not many kids have a dad who will make two giant slices of bread for demonstrating making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (for a speech class).”

He regularly took his kids camping, hiking, and fishing from an early age, and the kids would be involved in getting the camp ready, cooking, cleaning, and building fires. Jim would even take his kids to the BYU archaeological field school in the summer, involving them in his work and sharing with them his love of the outdoors. Sharon said, “He taught me to see the beauty in nature of a love of being outdoors.” Jim also went camping with his grandchildren, enjoyed the outdoors with them, and took them on hikes (often the hike to Battle Creek Falls, just up the hill from his house). There were family reunions spent enjoying the outdoors and sharing testimony.

While Jim claims he can’t carry a tune in a bucket, he still enjoyed singing and the family often sang together in the car and around the campfire.

His children and grandchildren remember him building and flying radio-controlled airplanes. He would often help his grandchildren with school projects such as teaching them about his model airplanes and sharing his love and knowledge of aerial photography. He would give them rubber-band flyers for people to play with. And Jim was often working on building a model airplanes as his grandchildren visited, the clamped pieces of wood drying on wax paper. He also shared his photographs, sometimes showing carousels of slides or getting out aerial photographs stitched together on foam board.

Jim held family home evenings and took his family to church every week. His two sons served missions and all of his children were married in the temple. He taught his children to love the gospel. He read the scriptures with his family, particularly the Book of Mormon, and talked about the teachings of the scriptures. He taught his children to work hard and to pursue an education. He taught his children to budget and save money. He also taught them to serve others.

His son Chris writes, “During my mission I longed to have a father’s blessing from my Dad during some of the unique challenges I faced. Dad was busy with work and travel, and didn’t write very many letters, but those that came I have kept and prize them as deeply as father’s blessings—as I feel they are and carry the same weight as if you were there giving me a blessing. I still refer to them. After a particularly discouraging week I wrote home asking for advice. I was seeing no apparent success and feeling as if perhaps there was something from my past—some forgotten sin that was keeping me from having success. Perhaps, I thought that I had not fully repented of things that I thought I had. My soul was troubled. I received an answer to my question to Dad within the week, in a letter all by itself which was unusual (Mom normally sent her letters and Dad’s letters together) and was addressed by my Daddy. Among other things in the letter Dad wrote that I needed to serve others and not worry about success. But he also wrote something that changed my view of repentance forever. He wrote that I should stop reminding the Lord about sins in my life that the Lord had already forgotten and forgiven. Dad always honors the Priesthood he holds and taught me to honor that same authority.”

He loves and cherishes his family, and regularly updates a picture board of photographs of his family in the center of his living room. Jim loves having babies around—first with his own children, and then his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And Jim encouraged his children and grandchildren to play, including providing a large closet off the living room for a plan room—sometimes with a sign on the door that said, “Unauthorized personnel only.”




Jim was interested in scouting from an early age. When he was eight or nine, he got to go backpacking in the Uintas to Trial Lake. It gave him in an instant desire to be a scout because it was so much fun.

He achieved the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14, and also received a medal for saving a person’s life. Jim found a three-year-old child who had fallen into the ditch and then was carried into a culvert, along with his father. Jim crawled in and rescued the child, and also cared for the child’s father until the fire department arrived. As part of the lifesaving award, he was able to go a national Court of Honor in Seattle, Washington, along with his father. There, he got to meet George Albert Smith, who shook his hand.

His father, Calvin, was a scouter and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, setting the example that all his sons followed. And that legacy continued: Jim’s sons both became Eagle Scouts as well as all of his grandsons. Jim proudly shows pictures of the Eagle Scouts of his family gathered together.

Jim was often a scout leader. He received a Silver Beaver and many other recognitions for his work in scouting through the years. He has helped many scouts and scout leaders find a love for scouting and the outdoors.

He loved to hike, explore caves, backpack, fish, and camp, even when it rained or sometimes snowed.

Melody, his daughter, wrote the following in October 2013, “This year when I heard about dad being nominated for a scouting award, I thought about how he exemplifies scouting. He is trustworthy with things he is assigned to do and you can always count on him for things. He is loyal to his wife, family and friends. He is helpful, when my boys were doing scouting projects or school projects he would help as much as we asked. There were several groups of boys who came from my neighborhood to pass off Webelo’s craftsman and aviation and other things like that. Whenever they needed to talk to a veteran they talked to him about the Korean War. This shows his helpfulness. He is friendly and seems to know a lot of people. He is courteous to women and taught us women always go first. He is kind and loving sharing the bounty of his garden. He visits neighbors and even when they don’t speak the same language. He is thrifty, always using materials that are inexpensive or recycled. They have always been good savers. He is brave as he struggles with his aging body trying so hard to stand and walk when his body is wearing out. He loves the temple and I grew up knowing how important it was and how important temple covenants were. As well as church attendance and living the gospel. And loyalty to his wife. My mother is the same. I grew up in a scouting family partially because of them serving in scouting but also because they lived the scouting law and oath.”




When asked who the most important person in his life is, Jim says it is his wife, Marlene. When asked what he is proudest of, Jim points to her. And he says the biggest miracle is, I ended up married to her. And she is a miracle in my life.

               He told me once about his marriage: After over fifty years, I haven’t regretted a day of it.

Marlene wrote, “Jim is my protector. . . Jim was a fixer, very good at fixing cars and other things. Our life together will be and is very satisfying.”




After retirement, Jim and Marlene served as missionaries for the church working in the church history and property departments. Jim was responsible for discovering and identifying locations of buildings at the church history sites throughout the United States. He was able to use his skills that he gained during his career to benefit the church that he loved.

Jim has served in the church throughout his life, not only as a missionary and a scout leader, but as in elder’s quorum presidencies and as a high priest group leader.

This is Jim’s testimony in his own words:

It is hard to tell when a testimony starts. It builds upon examples of parental action and love. It grows with a “thank you” from giving service and seeing the receiver receive it. It strengthens every time we try to be helpful and the spirit whispers “peace” for actions. It has been my experience that whatever we ask of our Lord, we will receive it. We just have to be willing to accept it and be obedient to the Lord’s way. For example, during the 1950s, I had the desire to learn more of the scriptures. The time given me to learn was under very unusual circumstances. On a troop ship going to Korea, there seems to be little to do, but one can read thru and study well both the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. On the way home, a year later, I had the same opportunity with the Old Testament. When one considers the environment of a troop ship, it is realized that a miracle took place, but only because of a blessing of concentration and the opportunity to be alone. Travel became a way of life during the years since, and long hours have been good study time since then as a result of that training time. This includes three times around the world

After Korea, at the suggestion of parents and friends I received my Patriarchal blessing. Up to this point it was the most spiritual experience of my life. It set a pattern that made the rest of my life a form of heaven when I was obedient to the commandments of our father in heaven. I was also taught the principle of consequence and repentance during this time, and have tried to live by it since.

By the time we went on our mission in 1998, we had had enough spiritual experiences and ‘miracles’ to recognize many of them as they happened. We have seen the elements controlled; we have been guided to the right place for the right reason; and we have been protected from calamity by the Lord’s hand. He has given us the privilege of seeing where the history of the restoration of the gospel took place in this dispensation. We are grateful for those gifts from him. I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and his plan for us of eternal life, which testimony I leave in His name with all who read this.

I remember there used to be sign hanging in their house that said, “The brightest light is yellow.” One day, the sign had changed. It now read, “The brightest light is Jesus Christ.” That is example and testimony that Jim left to his posterity.






  • 50th wedding anniversary scrapbook
  • Marlene’s birthday scrapbook
  • Personal notes, papers, and history, including a partial autobiography
  • Original letters from Israel
  • Notes from an interview with Ben Walker, undated
  • Video recordings


Articles available online about his career:


  • James W. Walker. “Low Altitude, Large-Scale Reconnaissance: Detail>Expense”, Proc. SPIE 0979, Airborne Reconnaissance XII, 93 (February 23, 1989); doi:10.1117/12.948621; http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.948621
  • http://www.culturalsite.com/project_pages/Hawaii_1.pdf
  • http://www.deseretnews.com/article/260144/2-FROM-BYU-TOUT-MODEL-PLANES-FOR-AERIAL-PHOTOS.html?pg=all






22 July 1978

               It’s been two weeks since I’ve heard from anyone. I’m getting homesick, so my next letter will be my homesick letter to Mom. The life at an archeological dig here is much different than in the states or Mexico. Dirt moves slower and people seem more interested in pots and documentation than they are in culture. There is written history about most of the places here and as a result there seems to be more drive for verification of history than there is for what the people really did and how they lived. In short an archeologist in the Middle East is a historian, and in the Americas, he is a sociologist and anthropologist.

. . . Most of my work is in the dark room at [the] . . . university. It is air conditioned which can be a bad thing as it was in Missouri. Too much inside to outside traveling starts the lungs filling with fluid and causes some problems. Care must be taken. We start at 4:30 each morning except Shabbat and Sunday. All are at the “dig” via buses at 5:00 am and the soil starts moving away from walls and old floors. The first break comes at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast. Back to work from 9:30 to 1:00 at which time all Israel stops for 2 to 4 hours because of heat. Lunch is at 1:30, then a few hours rest and back to work at 6:00 pm with pottery sorting and classifications. Evening meals is at 7:00 p.m., evening lecture at 9:00 until 9:30. Then lights out at 10:00. And the cycle continues for four weeks. Then we get a new group of students to work out. Camps is on the coast, and some swim every day. . . . My work only allows for swimming 3 days a week if I’m lucky. Food is different—real Kosher. Lots of cheese, yogurt, fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, milk, and, but never with, meat (spicy), chicken, fish (but never shellfish). The diet is varied, simple, but certain food are never eaten with others.


Aug. 13, 1978

               . . . .Bethlehem is beautiful but disappointing. Like everything that Christ was around during his life time, someone built a church and a few graven images over it. The chapel is beautiful and most buildings around it are white including the usual souvenir shop. The place of the nativity is behind the crest of the hill in an almost totally Arab town. A valley to the east is a place called shepherd’s hill where one can watch the sun go down and a star (planet) come out early each evening right over the nativity church. This would be either the planet Venus, Jupiter, or Saturn depending on the time of the year. Right now I assume its Jupiter, because standing between two tall buildings the other day, I saw Venus at 10:00 a.m. directly overhead. Bethlehem has been an Arab village since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Today is a Jewish holiday commemorating the destruction 1908 years ago. Most of the Arabs in the town are Christian which puts pressure on them from both Jews and Moselems. It was evacuated only once during those 1908 years and that was during the 1948 war. Tomorrow, I will probably go to Jaffa, Jafo, Yafo, or whatever you want to call it.


               16 Aug, 1978

               Dear Marlene,

               I hope you mailed your last letter yesterday, because I won’t get any you’ve mailed after that. We leave here for [unreadable] on the 28th and letters have been taking 12 days. That means my last letter will be sent on the 20th unless I want to beat it home. There is an extra washer timer in the garage—never been used. What we needed is a wiring harness for the washer, you may remember I fixed it temporarily, about six months ago. The pressure is now on to finish up the work here & so I’m going to be busy.

               I went to Jaffa Monday afternoon & saw what is one of the cleanest, nicest, quaintest places in Israel. The old quarter and artists section around St. Peters Cathedral have all been remodeled and refurbished. It is a beautiful place to live there. You must be Arabic, a long time resident. . . . The place was very photogenic as you will see. Jaffa, as I probably previously mentioned was a harbor used by King Solomon and on down to and including the ’48 war’. It is not used now because Hiffa, Acco (Akko) is a better harbor. During biblical times it (Hiffa) was not used, because the Carmel Valley was a swamp which is now filled in with sediment from the mountains. The Carmel Valley is now one of the best agricultural areas of the country. The Jaffa area is a great citrus area also. Cotton is the king crop though in most of this country though. Most clothing sold here is cotton with some amounts of wool. It is more absorbent than synthetics. Most synthetic materials are sweat boxes in this country and also unbearable to wear.

               On the extended rest time, if you want to go two days, then call and extend our reservation another day. But remember I must be home Sunday noon, so if relatives want to get together, then it will have to be at our place. I start teaching on Tuesday, and must get ready for that too. Bill and I must meet before I Get too far into the week. About some of the other problems you mentioned (other peoples) we’ll have to discuss those when I get there, there are facts that you are not aware of (and neither am I) that will help all to understand. I love you & miss everyone. (Several people have asked about a ride back to Provo and on 1 Sept., but I told them we have a party to attend in SLC . . . . that’s right isn’t it?)




19 Aug 1978

               Dear Family,

               This will be the last letter to get home before I do, so I may not write anymore. It can’t get mailed till tomorrow, because its Shabbat and tomorrow is day 58 since I left, leaving only 12 days left. If it takes 13 days to get there then I may even beat it. Some letters take as little as 10 days. Most take 13 and 15 is about the longest we’ve found out. This next week will be a busy one in as much as the project is closing for the season and all must be photographed in preparation for next year. The photography makes my work very busy and we must be out of campy by Friday night. I don’t know what we will do till Monday when we leave for Greece, but something I’m sure will be arranged. I’d still like to see Nazareth and go back to see Jericho again. It’s been fun in some ways, I guess my testimony is built on something besides old churches, ruins, and monuments. It’s built more on personal spiritual experiences. Yes, it’s nice to say I walked in the same areas where Jesus walked, I’ve seen his land and people where he grew up and performed his ministry. I’m also convinced the people would crucify him to day if he were here. I also felt—even more strongly—that I’ve been where he was in American in at least two dispensations (New York in the early 1800s & Central America during the AD-BC Era). Most important I feel a personal manifestation of his presence as a thank-you when I’ve done something I could really call service to someone one else in righteousness. This feeling is not controlled by geography, but by doing as testimony and the Spirit has dictated. After all that’s what really testimony is. A spiritual feeling or witness that comes thru study of the scriptures, applying them so one can live righteously, and then giving service wherever & whenever the opportunity presents itself. I love you all very much and have missed you. It will be nice to be back together in two weeks. Love Jim.

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