December 8, 2010

In Memoriam: Jim McCloud, an original Kaiser Engineer

Jim McCloud being interviewed for an oral history in 2002.

Sad news has reached us at Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources that Jim McCloud, a longtime employee and executive in Henry J. Kaiser’s industrial empire died on Dec. 2 at the age of 92 in La Verne, Calif.

I remember meeting Mr. McCloud for the first time about a decade ago when I had the privilege to assist him and a number of other former Kaiser executives who raised the money and supported the “Henry J. Kaiser: Think Big” special exhibition at the Oakland Museum, a tribute to Mr. Kaiser, in 2004.

During World War II, Mr. McCloud, right out of Stanford University with a degree in mechanical engineering, went to work at the famous Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif., in 1941. He became outfitting superintendent in Yard No. 3 — today a key site of the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

I will never forget one meeting when he was asked to describe just how frenetic things were when Kaiser workers were building a ship a day during World War II. “Well,” he replied, “if you dropped a quarter on the deck of one of those ships when it was being outfitted, that quarter would be welded to the deck before you could bend over to pick it up.”

Mr. McCloud was proud of the wartime shipbuilding effort in which tens of thousands of workers smashed all production records in the history of shipbuilding.

“None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the native ingenuity and patriotism of the American workers and the strong support of the City of Richmond, which absorbed the greatest percentage growth in population of any wartime center in the nation,” he said at the 1992 dedication of Kaiser Shipyard No. 2 as a historic landmark.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the National Historical Park that honors that important chapter in American history.

To learn more about Mr. McCloud’s experiences on the Home Front, read his Oral History in the collection of the Rosie the Riveter World War II American Home Front Oral History Project, a collaborative program of the Regional Oral History Office at The Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley, the National Park Service, and the City of Richmond.

James F. McCloud was born in West Oakland, Calif., on July 2, 1918. He attended Cole Grammar School, Lowell Junior High School and McClymond's and St. Mary's high schools.

It was in the shipyards building Liberty and Victory Ships that he met his wife of 54 years, Geneva Edgar, who died in 1999.

Except for a brief stint with Pacific Bridge Co. in San Francisco he spent his entire working career with Kaiser Industries. Following his work in the shipyards, he moved to the Kaiser-Frazer Willow Run automobile plant in Michigan. In the mid 1950s, he went to Argentina for the formation of Industrias Kaiser Argentina, the automobile plant in Latin America of which he became president.

Mr. McCloud returned to the Kaiser world headquarters at Kaiser Center in Oakland in 1972 and became president of Kaiser Engineers. He retired in 1983.

Mr. McCloud volunteered much of his time on behalf of many Oakland nonprofit organizations such as Mercy Care, the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, St. Mary's College, the University of Santa Clara, Providence Hospital, the Oakland Coliseum and the U.S.S. Potomac Association.

He received a Papal Honor in 1964 and was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Paul VI. He was also a Knight and his wife, Geneva, a Dame of the Order of Malta.

Mr. McCloud is survived by his four sons, Kimball, Kelly, Mark and James; two daughters-in-law, Claire and Marcela; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be held Saturday, Dec. 11. For information on the services and more about the family of Mr. McCloud, see his obituary at InsideBayArea.com.