A gentleman with “a twinkle in his eyes” who “knew how to hold on to a dollar till the eagle grinned,” URI alumnus Denard James Pinderhughes Jr., who died last year at age 99, embodied the values of duty, honor, economy, and personal responsibility common to his generation: Americans who came of age during the Great Depression and Second World War and went on to build the country we have today while creating interesting, useful lives of their own. He was a cousin of the Wileys for whom one of URI’s newest residence halls is named: siblings Alton W. Wiley Sr. ’51, the late George Wiley ’53, and Beverly Wiley.
The following photos and obituary were collected and written by Pinderhughes’ daughter, Gayle E. Pinderhughes.
Denard James Pinderhughes Jr. was born June 14, 1913 in East Providence, R.I., the first of four children of Denard James Pinderhughes Sr. and Florence Tolliver Pinderhughes.
One of three Negro students in his class at Hope Street High School, as it was called then, “Jimmie” enjoyed physics and chemistry and lettered in basketball. His classmates described him as “dazzl[ing] both spectators and opponents with his speed on the basketball court” and “making all … laugh with his dry sense of humor.” From 1934 to 1937 he studied agriculture at Rhode Island State College, now the University of Rhode Island.
In 1938 he moved to Washington, D.C., where he met and married Rosa C. Thomas. After U.S. Army service in the Philippines during World War II, he returned to Washington to work for the U. S. Post Office. Daughters Dianne and Gayle were born in 1947 and 1948. By 1949 the family moved to the Bangor Street SE home where he and Rosa remained for the rest of their lives. In 1972 Jimmy retired from his position as a motor vehicles safety officer for the U.S. Post Office and began a second career as a buyer of supplies for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, advocating thrift, efficiency, and correct procedures in all matters.
Jimmy was a voracious reader from boyhood. He recalled reading science fiction novels with a flashlight under the bed covers at night. As an adult he channeled his love of learning in many directions, especially investing in the stock market. Fellow church member Doris Savoy, technical information specialist at the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission Library, recalled his visits there: “People loved him! He talked with everyone.… [he] came in as a stranger, but became friends with all the Library staff. … He was willing to find information and did his own research. He used to say the SEC Library ‘has some good stuff here.’”
Jimmy Pinderhughes was handy around the house, always preferring to do maintenance and painting himself. He enjoyed woodworking and found a friend and teacher in master cabinetmaker Charles Lowery, who lived nearby. Pinderhughes continued the interest in horticulture that led him to study agriculture in college by cultivating fruit trees on his uncle’s farm in Shady Side, Md., and red maple trees in his own backyard. Mature red maples now ornament many yards near his Bangor Street SE home.
Pinderhughes loved to share tips on personal finance and techniques for managing home and personal affairs with everyone he encountered. He was resourceful, honest, thrifty, witty, knowledgeable about many things, and a gentleman. He had a twinkle in his eyes and knew how to “hold on to a dollar till the eagle grinned.” He loved Big Band music of the 1930’s and 40’s; dancing; finding well-tailored suits in secondhand shops; and crafting salvaged wood into beautiful, useful furniture.
D. James Pinderhughes is remembered by his daughters Dianne M. Pinderhughes and Gayle E. Pinderhughes; sister Elizabeth P. Kinch; brother Lloyd A. Pinderhughes of East Providence, R.I.; sister-in-law Margaret Irving; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, and friends. His wife of 70 years, Rosa Thomas Pinderhughes, died two months after he did; his brother Alfred L. Pinderhughes of Providence predeceased him in 2008.