Daryl Leon “Jesse” James, a U.S. Navy Veteran, died on Oct. 23, 2019. A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The celebration will be at 11:30 a.m. at Nicolino’s Italian Restaurant, 35-325 Date Palm Drive Suite 111 in Cathedral City. It is my desire to honor and recognize as many World War II veterans as possible at this luncheon on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Daryl James was born on May 13, 1926 in Wheaton Ill. So, this year he turned 93.

Remembering Pearl Harbor and Daryl James

Daryl James, far left, receives the Silver Helmet Award on March 25, 2018.

He had one brother.  He attended Glenbard High School where he was active with the student newspaper and received an award for journalism.  Daryl delivered newspapers and for two consecutive years he won a contest for which newspaper boy could sell the most subscriptions.  Daryl won train trips to New York City and Washington, D.C.  In New York City he went to the World’s Fair.

As a teenager Daryl distinctly remembers the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that led the United States into World War II. Daryl had a strong desire to serve his country.  He chose to enlist in the United States Navy on Adolph Hitler’s birthday on April 20, 1944. Daryl was a Communications Technician 3rd Class (CT3) with a top secret clearance. He served briefly on the U.S.S. Midway and on shore duty.  He also was stationed in Brazil.

A very sad moment arrived when Daryl learned that his gay high school buddy Army soldier Frank Moulton was killed by a Japanese sniper at the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines.  Over the years Daryl has written some very moving and inspiring stories about Frank that have been delivered in speeches at public events and printed in newspapers and magazines.  AMVETS Post 66 in Palm Springs is named the “Frank Moulton Post” in honor of Frank’s heroic sacrifice for his country.

After the war Daryl attended the University of Iowa and got a degree in journalism advertising. Daryl was still in the Navy Reserve and President Harry S. Truman recalled all reservists like Daryl back into active duty when the Korean War broke out.  Daryl served in Guam during the Korean War.

Daryl moved to California in 1952. He recalls the 1952 Presidential election and he had an opportunity to attend a rally with Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson who was the Governor of Illinois at Angels Stadium in Hollywood.  Daryl moved back to Chicago in 1959 to be closer to his parents.  There Daryl worked for many years in sales and marketing.

Daryl moved back to California in 1973.  He settled in Malibu and was very active in the successful effort to incorporate Malibu as a city. In Malibu Daryl became friends with many celebrities including baseball players Tim McCarver and Chuck Finley.  Daryl has a picture of himself with football quarterback Bart Starr. Daryl became friends with Angel’s owner Gene Autry.  Daryl also was friends with Rock Hudson, Jack Lemmon, Shelley Winters and Fran Allison

Daryl was a pioneer and even though he still lived in Malibu he bought a hotel in Palm Springs in 1975 and it became the very first gay resort in Warm Sands.  Daryl became a full-time resident of Palm Springs in 1987. Daryl built a beautiful home at Pinyon Crest. Later he moved back to Palm Springs where he resides now.

Daryl was the President of the Palm Springs Gay Tourism Guild.  The post office decided to do away with the processed mail post mark stamp “Palm Springs” which upset Daryl.  Daryl felt that postcards sent from Palm Springs by tourists should be post marked “Palm Springs” and not Banning or Beaumont which was the new post office regional mail distribution center. Daryl was instrumental in working with U.S. Rep. Sonny Bono to direct the post office to resume post marking mail sent from Palm Springs with the words “Palm Springs.”

When Sonny’s wife Mary became the Congresswoman Daryl enjoyed a close relationship with her. He strived to inspire Mary to support the right of LGBT to serve openly in the U.S. military.  He was most effective in doing this while Mary served on the House Armed Services Committee.  Daryl continued to be a close friend of Mary until she voted to cut Medicare. So, in 2012 Daryl was shown in a TV commercial endorsing Dr. Raul Ruiz for Congress. Daryl was a charter member of the Desert Stonewall Democratic Club.

Daryl has been  a nationally-recognized leader in many veteran organizations.  He was a delegate to the William Joyner Conference on the Concerns of Veterans which met with members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. At this conference in 1999 Daryl attended one of the first meetings when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs warned of the health risks of our troops being exposed to depleted uranium weapons.

Daryl served as vice president of the Palm Springs Gay Veterans.  In that capacity he was a leader in the effort to permit LGBT veterans to march in the Palm Springs Veteran’s Day parade in 1999. He also served as the regional vice president of the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA).  He was a guest speaker at the Chicago GLBVA chapter meeting. At this meeting Daryl received a standing ovation when he stated that the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan were necessary in order to save over one million American lives.   When Army soldier Barry Winchell was murdered Daryl did many media interviews.  Later he helped AMVETS Post 66 honor Barry with a memorial service at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City.  Barry Winchell’s mother attended this memorial service.

Daryl was a charter member of AMVETS Post 66 and served as post treasurer when AMVETS dedicated America’s first LGBT Veteran’s Memorial on May 27, 2001.  While Daryl was the AMVETS Post Commander he and Tom Swann Hernandez presented an award to late President Gerald Ford.  The meeting in Ford’s office in Rancho Mirage lasted about 45 minutes.

Daryl has attended many AMVETS state and national conventions.  In 2002 he helped Tom Swann Hernandez present an award to the former Miss America at the AMVETS National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. He now serves as the AMVETS Post 66 Adjutant. Daryl helped honor the Pearl Harbor Survivors and Tuskegee Airmen that live in our area.

Daryl was an active member of the Unity Church in Palm Springs and the Episcopal Church in Palm Desert. Daryl had a strong connection to the Virgin Mary and was an admirer of late Pope John Paul I.   More recently Daryl was very active in Bloom in the Desert Church in Palm Springs. In 2017 Daryl was presented the Silver Helmet Award by AMVETS Post 6 at Bloom in the Desert Church.

Daryl also served as chairman of the Riverside County Veterans Advisory Committee having been appointed to this committee by late County Supervisor Roy Wilson. Daryl has served as a leader of the Desert Veteran’s Memorial Association which sponsors the Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day ceremonies at Desert Memorial Park. Daryl is the chairman of the Homeless Veterans Committee in the Palm Springs Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).  Daryl is active in Veterans For Peace. He has written special poems talking about the true cost of war which is the loss of human life.

Daryl was a close friend and strong supporter of former Palm Springs Mayor Will Kleindienst.  When Daryl’s term expired as AMVETS Post 66 Commander in June 2003 he received a special award from Mayor Kleindienst.  Kleindienst did not hesitate to honor Daryl who was an important leader in the LGBT community and commander of an AMVETS Post named in memory of a fallen gay soldier.  Kleindienst also received an award from the Palm Springs Gay Veterans.  So in 2003 when Kleindienst was running for re-election Daryl was upset that many leaders of the LGBT community branded Kleindienst as a homophobe.  Daryl rode with Kleindienst in the Palm Springs LGBT Pride Parade.

Daryl has been a gifted writer for many years.  His articles have been published in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet. His two books are available on Amazon. One book is poetry and the other book is about his life journey.

In recent years Daryl attended as a delegate the 2018 AMVETS Department of California Convention in Ontario, California and the 2018 AMVETS National Convention in Norfolk, Virginia.  In October 2018 he was featured on KESQ TV when the Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CDVA) came to Cathedral City to see the California LGBTQ Veterans Memorial. Daryl designed the bronze plaque that is on the memorial and he spoke at the April 27, 2019 dedication ceremony at Desert Memorial Park. In June 2018 Daryl was honored with the 2019 Veteran Service Award from State Senator Jeff Stone. This award presentation was also shown on KESQ TV.  Days before Daryl died, he was honored by Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez for being a volunteer driver for the AMVETS Express. Daryl was very grateful to receive these awards.

Daryl has been a mentor to many people including Tom Swann Hernandez.  We are delighted to share this brief biography of Daryl James who has made a positive difference in the Coachella Valley. AMVETS has requested permission to plant a tree in Daryl’s memory at Desert Memorial Park.

Charlie and I last saw him October 8 in rehab.

I spoke to him on the phone on Oct. 12.

I spoke to his social worker on Oct 14.

Both former state Sen. Jeff Stone and State Assemblymember Chad Mayes have expressed their sadness for Daryl’s passing.

Thinking of you this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Image Sources

  • Daryl-james-silver-helmet-award-mar-25-2018: Tom Swann Hernandez
  • Pearl Harbor: Pixaby