Dr. James Elliott Byrd, 78, of Laguna Niguel, California, passed away on October 28, 2020, from complications from Alzheimer’s and diabetes. He died peacefully at his home surrounded by his wife, Barbara, and their family.
Jim was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Kathryn Elliott and James Harry Byrd. He met Barbara (Flaxman) at the age of 19 and they were married in September 1966. He attended Wright Junior College, where he discovered his passion for science. He then earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Roosevelt University in 1966 and his doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1970.
In 1974, after a post doc at University of Southern California and teaching for a year at Harvey Mudd College, Jim joined the Chemistry Department faculty at California State University Stanislaus (CSUS), where he taught until retiring in 2009. His long and distinguished career included serving as department chair for 17 years (1988-2005) and being honored as CSUS Outstanding Professor (1995).
Jim performed chemistry “magic” shows for decades at Central Valley public schools, sharing his love of learning and science. In addition, his scholarly research was published in national and international journals and he was recognized for his work in training K-12 teachers and improving science education.
Jim leaves a long and rich legacy in his family. He was a loving and supportive husband, father and grandfather who enjoyed cheering on his grandkids and never missed a recital, game or celebration. Jim also had a passion for music, particularly Bob Dylan, and travel. Together, he and Barbara enjoyed exploring the outdoors - hiking and camping - and later traveling the
world, where they fell in love with Fiji and the ocean. On these trips he continued to master his love of photography, particularly underwater and floral photos.
Jim is survived by his wife of 54 years, Barbara, and their children, Gabrielle Williams (David) of Lake Oswego, Oregon; Danica Hughes (Mark) of San Marino, California; and Graeme Byrd (Stacey Roen); six grandchildren, Matigan and Tate Williams; Benjamin, Alexandra and Jonathan Hughes; and Roen Byrd; and many close friends from around the world whom they met on their travels.
The family requests donations be made to the Dr. James E. Byrd Memorial Scholarship at California State University Stanislaus (CSU Stanislaus Foundation, CSUS , ATTN: Gifts & Records, One University Circle MSR 300, Turlock, CA 95382 - “In Memory of Dr. James E. Byrd” OR www.csustan.edu/giving#cos (College of Science)).