Earhart researcher, witness Jimm Crowder dies at 72

Super Bowl Sunday morning dawned with the sad news of the passing of Jimm Crowder on Jan. 29.  Below is Jimm’s obituary, as published in Feb. 2 Star Tribune of Minneapolis.  No cause of death was given, but his health had been failing in recent years. 

Crowder, Jimm age 72 of St. Paul passed away January 29th, 2020, peacefully at home.  He spent his career traveling the globe and visited over 100 countries as the Director of International Admissions at Macalester College.  Through his deep knowledge of global issues and passion for international education he created a far-reaching community of students, colleagues, and friends.  A true renaissance man, he was a baseball aficionado, world class chef, and a brilliant storyteller.  Perhaps above all else, he was a dedicated humanist, optimist, and lover of life.  He saw the best in all those he met and had a profound impact on countless lives.  He is survived by his wife, Jutta and children, Max and Anja. May he travel well.

Jimm Crowder shared his close personal knowledge of major Marshall Islands eyewitness Bilimon Amaron and several others, helping us to expand, better understand and appreciate the Marshall Islands landing scenario and its key role in the Earhart disappearance.  He passed away Jan. 29 at 72.

In late July 2015, Jimm presented new witness information to the Amelia Earhart Research Association (AERA) online discussion group, recalling his work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia in his early 20s, from 1970 to 1972, where he lived on Majuro and Saipan and taught middle school.

Jimm also learned plenty about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, beginning at Majuro in 1970 where he was befriended by Senator Amata Kabua, also known as theIroj, or King of the Marshalls, who later became the first president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.  Through Kabua he met many of the leading players and witnesses in the Earhart saga, including Bilimon Amaron, the powerful and influential Robert Reimers, Tony and Oscar deBrum, and the Heine brothers, John and Dwight.

Amaron, a successful and respected businessman, was Jimm’s landlord on Majuro, and John Heine supervised his work.  He [Bilimon] and his workers joined me in building my modest plywood and tin shack on his property, Jimm wrote:

I saw him multiple times per week at his store where I bought my provisions.  On a couple of occasions Bilimon knocked on my door with a big smile and a large chunk of freshly caught tuna, which he readily shared with me and other members of our village.  All of these people and others, some with firsthand observations and others with credible secondhand information, spoke to me, often at length, about Earhart and Noonan.  Every one of them offered evidence that AE and Noonan landed in the Marshalls.

This stamp commemorating Amata Kabua, who was the first President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands from 1979 to 1996 (five consecutive terms), was issued shortly after his 1996 death on Jan 27, 1997.  As a Peace Corps worker in the Marshalls from 1970 to 1972, Jimm Crowder was befriended by Kabua, who was also known as the “Iroj,” or King of the Marshalls.

After his Peace Corps job took him to Saipan in 1971, Crowder’s friendship with Amata Kabua continued, as the senator often visited on official business and introduced Crowder to numerous American and Micronesian government officials.  “AE’s time on Saipan seemed to be a given and was commonly discussed among government professionals,” Crowder recalled.  “Everyone knew the story and most accepted that it was true.”

For much more on Jimm’s important contributions to Earhart research, please see pages 164-167 of Truth at Last.

My heartfelt condolences to Jimm’s family,Les Kinney wrote in the Star Tribune’s Guest Book.  “I have never met such a kind, soft spoken man.  A true friend with a vibrant intellect.  A friend who would go the extra mile to make you welcome and comfortable. 

“He served in the Marshall Islands and Saipan,” Kinney continued, “and is the only person to have had discussions with two witnesses who had seen Amelia Earhart on both Saipan and the Marshall IslandsHe truly will be missed.” 

I echo Les Kinney’s sentiments, and hope the Angels have already flown Jimm to his Heavenly abode, where Amelia Earhart welcomed him home.

8 responses

  1. William H. Trail | Reply

    May the Souls of the Faithful Departed, through the Mercy of God, Rest in Peace. Amen.

    William

    Like

  2. RIP Jimm. Great article and tribute Mike.

    Like

  3. R.I.P.- Jimm. Yet another verification of the “Truth At Last”

    Like

  4. Take care Jimm; looks like you have many more great discussions/interviews to come. We’ll see you later.

    Like

  5. Jimm was the first westerner to have discussed the white woman on the Japanese ship as told by Bilimon Amaron – eight years before Vincent Loomis and nine years before Fred Goerner. He was the first person to have been told the account of John Heine, the principal at the Majuro high school where Jimm taught. Heine told Jimm that as a youngster, he and his classmates saw a ship sail into Jaluit Harbor towing a silver plane on a barge.

    More significantly, Jimm told of an account that while teaching at Hopwood Junior High school on Saipan there had been discussions about Amelia Earhart in the small teachers lounge. There was a nun teaching there, said Jimm, who kept silent during those discussions. Jimm was then told by the Assistant Principal that this nun was associated with the Mount Carmel Church and school and taught part-time at Hopwood. The assistant principal said to Jimm, this nun had an account about Amelia Earhart. Jimm then spoke privately with this nun which I believe Mike featured in an earlier blog.

    Jimm described this nun as rather short, petite and said she had been on Saipan in 1937 and through the war years. At one time, she had been incarcerated at the prison for some minor infraction – part of the Japanese practice of harassing the sisters and priest to make sure they stayed in line. While walking around the inner grounds of the Garapan Prison during exercise time, on more than one occasion, this nun saw a woman who fit the description of Amelia Earhart. They weren’t allowed to talk but as this nun passed this white woman, they would exchange a little smile and a subtle wink and a nod.

    Could the person this nun saw have been Amelia Earhart? Jimm couldn’t remember the name of the nun. On my next trip to Saipan, I headed over to Mount Carmel School. I was able to find the yearbooks from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s There were several pictures of the nuns on staff. They also had a picture and name of a nun who taught part-time at Hopwood Junior High School. This nun was small and petite. Her name was Sister Angelica Salaberria. I knew the name from the list of nuns that had been repatriated by the Americans after the fall of Saipan in late June 1944. There were pictures of this nun taken in 1944. It was the same nun in the pictures from the Mount Carmel yearbook.

    When I showed the photographs from the yearbook to Jimm, he immediately picked out Sister Angelica Salaberria as the nun who told him the Earhart account at Hopwood Junior High School. Jimm’s account was now corroborated.

    Why hadn’t Sister Angelica Salaberria told American authorities of her Earhart sighting in the summer of 1944 or later when she wrote a pamphlet type book of her time on Saipan? I don’t know, but I am convinced the account of Jimm Crowder, an educated academic, and a most honorable man is true.

    Like

    1. Les,
      Thanks for your comment. Sister Angelica’s name is mentioned prominently in this regard by Navy Nurse Mary Adams Patterson in her written account to Thomas E. Devine of March 1993, and can be found on page 200 of Truth at Last. I also did a post on this on June 12, 2015, titled “Navy nurse’s letter describes gruesome end for fliers, but was it true?” Here’s the first few paragraphs:

      Mary Adams Patterson, of Bangor, Maine, was the only female veteran to provide Earhart-related information to Thomas E. Devine,
      after he closed his classic 1987 book, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, with a plea to all Saipan veterans who had their own
      experiences during the summer of 1944 that supported his own and indicated the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the years prior to the war.

      Patterson was Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Mary Adams, Navy Nurse Corps, assigned to the military hospital on Saipan in 1946, where
      she met Sister Maria Angelica Salaberria, M.M.B, known to all as Sister Angelica, a Spanish-born, multilingual Catholic nun who taught
      Japanese and English on Saipan from 1934 to 1949.

      Sister Angelica’s account is one of the most gruesome ever reported in describing the deaths of the American fliers on Saipan.

      No other Saipanese or GI veterans of the Saipan invasion reported details as ghastly as these.

        For more of this post, please see

        Mike

      Like

  6. Stuart R. Brownstein | Reply

    Another good guy gone ! Thanks Mike ! U R the best !
    Warmly, Stuart

    Like

  7. Dear Mike: Thank you for the nice Tribute to Jimm Crowder. Jimm lived about 30 miles from me, so I was able to visit with him several times. Also, we talked a lot on the phone.

    Jimm was tireless when I had questions about his contacts with Actual Earhart Eyewitnesses, and he was so generous with his time, when I asked him general questions about the Marshall Islanders, and Saipan. I will miss his phone calls and kindness.

    Thank you, Mike, for putting his account in the appendix of Truth at Last, Second Edition. It will always rest there as both an account that is archived, and as a tribute. Rest in Peace, Jimm Crowder,

    Rob Ellos

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: