IUS graduate gone, not forgotten

IUS Horizon

James Falls
James Falls

James Thomas Falls died Nov. 9 at 56 years old, but the IUS graduate and former editor of The Horizon is remembered throughout campus, and is known for his perseverance.

In 1999, Falls, who was forced to walk with a cane due to health issues, was returning to his hotel room after attending a collegiate journalism convention in Atlanta, Ga. He was approached by two men demanding that he hand-over his wallet.

“Are you serious?” Falls said, before being punched in the face.

Falls proceeded to resist by jabbing one of the men in the stomach with his cane and punching the other in the face.

Charles Ewry, IUS alumnus, former editor of The Horizon and classmate of Falls, recounts the story.

“When J.T. hit the guy, he said it felt like he was breaking chicken bones on his fist,” Ewry said.

“The guys beat [J.T.] pretty bad and he was hospitalized, but police did find one of the guys hunched in an alley after being hit with the cane.”

The man was also hospitalized and later arrested.

“J.T. never lost his fire,” Ewry said.

Jim St. Clair, professor of journalism, said Falls struggled with health problems and there were times when he couldn’t continue with school and had to take time off.

“The odds were always stacked against him, but education was so important to him,” St. Clair said. “He never let adversity keep him down.”

Susan Mann, English professor, was also one of Falls’ instructors and friends.

“Jim was one of the most intelligent, spirited and amusing students I have known at IUS,” Mann said. “In the past he wrote excellent expository essays on literature, he excelled at research, both in journalism and in English, he wrote fiction and contributed articles to local publications.”

Falls was a staff writer and editor for The Horizon throughout an eight-year span (1993-2001) in which he was forced to leave and return to school several times due to health problems.

St. Clair remembers Falls’ time on the staff.

“Those who would remember J.T. would remember him for his columns. He always had strong, informed opinions and wanted to be provocative,” St. Clair said. “I think he succeeded.”

Another IUS Alumnus and former editor of The Horizon, Greg Bartlett, recalls Falls’ writing.

“J.T. didn’t pull any punches in his articles. He was always coming up with funny expressive ways to needle people,” Bartlett said. “But he was a sweet, gentle, sharp guy. I’ve never heard anyone say an unkind word about him.”

Falls wrote articles and columns with topics ranging from politics to religion, illness to education.

Ewry said Falls described himself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and his pieces often reflected his views.

Falls’ columns frequently elicited reader reaction as following papers often included a letter to the editor criticizing Falls’ opinion.

Falls called these people “crocodilian boo wooers” in one of his latter columns.

Over the years Falls had become increasingly immobile and his health problems prevented him from becoming a full-time reporter.

St. Clair elaborated.

“He would have been a fine reporter for any paper,” St. Clair said. “Without a doubt, J.T. had the ability.”

In Falls’ “King Bill” column, he compared Clinton’s first presidential term to Camelot. Falls wrote, “King Bill has to fight against Bush-league tactics and the beasts and dragons of the wizardry of Reaganomics.”

In this particular piece and in many others, Falls placed the subject as an underdog and he fought through struggles to reach a higher ground. As his colleagues stated above, Falls persevered throughout his life.

Mann said after school Falls wrote state-wide letters and commentaries on mental health issues in Indiana and he was an influential advocate for those who often do not have political voices.

“Always, even to the end, he remained preoccupied by a world far larger than himself,” Mann said.

While in many of his writings Falls criticized politics and religion, he also infused positivity throughout.

In a second of two columns dealing with mental illness, Falls wrote, “I again confess no specialty, but I do know that just because today is a crisis doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t dawn bright, the frost won’t melt or the birds won’t sing.”

He also wrote in a column headlined, “And the whole world smiles with you,” “I notice smiles because I am a journalist…

“Smiles are one of those things I notice and I have noticed smiles on this campus that outshine other smiles like the sun outshines the moon.”

Staff Writer