James Monroe Staples transitioned from this life on January 31, 2021. James was born to Johnnie Lee and Odell Earline Paige Staples on January 27, 1951 in Greenwood, Mississippi. His father later married, Irene McKinney, who raised James from the age of 12. His brothers included Vero West, and stepbrother, Walter McKinney.
James attended Rowan Jr. High School, then Jackson State University graduating in 1973 with a BS in Biology Education and a minor in Sociology. In 1970, while at Jackson State, he pledged and became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., The Mighty Upsilon Epsilon Chapter, gaining 13 line brothers. James was #13 on his line which was known as “The 13 Sex Machine.”
James had a lifelong love for music and singing. He, Jessie Thompson and Willie Norwood (Brandi Norwood’s father) formed the singing group, The Three Omegas, while at Jackson State. He was also the founder and lead singer of The Composers, which toured throughout the southern region. After college, James relocated to Seattle, WA to join his brother Vero West.
For over 30 years, James tirelessly served young people in the Juvenile Rehabilitation System. Whether working as a Rehabilitation Counselor, or a Lead Staff Security Supervisor at Echo Glen Children’s Center, or as a Juvenile Rehabilitation Coordinator and Parole Counselor at the Region 4 Seattle Office, James always focused on the well-being of the young people under his care. James was passionately committed to restorative justice for young people of color in the Juvenile Justice System. He received the “Outstanding Employee Award” in 1988 and 1992. In 1985 James started his own business, Staples and Associates, equipping agencies, organizations, and businesses with cultural competency, diversity and inclusion, and crisis intervention strategies.
James was a strong believer in youth, community, and church. He was an active member of the Seattle chapter of Black Child Development Institute. For four years, starting in late 80’s, James, along with Tony Orange and Garry Owens, met with school boards, principals and department heads to champion the cause of getting Black History into the curriculum of local school districts. They believed all children would gain from having a wider perspective of Black History and the contributions of African Americans to this country. As the founder of Project Homecoming, James exposed local high school students to the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) through summer tours of various HBCU campuses. James was a proud member of the Zeta Upsilon Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and treasured his Seattle Que brothers. At the time of his death, James was a member of Damascus International Fellowship.
In 1989 James met Lisa Brown, the mother of his only child Aja Dawn Staples, born June 1, 1993. Aja fondly remembers her dad making pancakes with apples and Blackburn’s Syrup. “He would always peel the skin from my apples.”
James was proceeded in death by his parents, Johnnie Lee and Odell Staples; brothers Vero West and Walter McKinney. James is survived by his daughter, Aja Staples and her mother, Lisa Brown; stepmother, Irene Staples; long-time friends, Mary and Tommy Bogan; the brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc; family, many friends, community members and youth who were impacted by his life.
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