April 16, 1924 - Saturday, August 21, 2004
James Douthit, a longtime Oakland Tribune reporter who loved to research people and places, died Aug. 21 at his home in South San Francisco from congestive heart failure, family members said. He was 80.
Mr. Douthit was born April 16, 1924, in Portland, Ore., and grew up there and in The Dalles. He attended the University of Oregon and University of Portland. From 1942 to 1946, he served in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II, mostly in the Pacific Theater.
His dreams of becoming a pilot were quashed when he contracted malaria, son Scott Douthit of South San Francisco said. So he picked up photography when he returned to the United States and took courses at the Northwest School of Photography. That sparked his lifelong passion for picture-taking.
"He was always taking pictures, pictures were part of his life," Scott Douthit said. He said the family is packing up a large portion of his father's extensive collection of shots of Alaska to send to a library in Juneau.
Mr. Douthit began his journalism career in Fairbanks, Alaska, as a photographer and reporter. There he met Florence Strand, a fellow reporter. The couple married in 1954 and had four children.
The next few years, Mr. Douthit worked as a photographer and reporter in Long Beach; Boise, Idaho; Yakima, Wash.; and Portland. In 1959, the family came to Berkeley.
"They were trying to find an area to support two writers, including a woman writer," his son said. "So they were looking for a progressive area and decided on the Bay Area."
Mr. Douthit started work as a general assignment reporter at the Tribune that same year. His wife became a reporter for the Berkeley Daily Gazette.
Mr. Douthit "loved to research things," his son said, including people of all kinds. Family members say Mr. Douthit loved meeting people and listening to their stories.
He also extensively researched Bay Area maritime history, a topic he loved, family said. For many years, he'd travel local waterways on his Chinese junk. The family would live on the junk in the summer, Scott Douthit said.
Mr. Douthit retired early in 1988 to take care of his ailing wife.
About 10 years ago, he moved to South San Francisco to be closer to family.
Mr. Douthit was "a big activist and great volunteer," his son said. For many years, he volunteered with Second Harvest in South San Francisco and the Sempervirens Fund in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In addition to son Scott, Mr. Douthit is survived by another son, Shelton; daughter Sally; and four grandchildren. His wife, Florence, and another son, Sean, preceded him in death.