A Three Sisters Wilderness Trailhead Presence: A Distinguished Volunteer

By Les Joslin

On July 30, 1997, I was orienting new volunteer James W. “Jim” Plummer to his Green Lakes Trailhead Information Station duties. “I understand you were in the Navy,” he said, and informed me he had been a World War II naval aviator. “I bet I know someone you know,” this tall, slim, patrician gentleman grinned when I mentioned what I did in the Navy.

“Who might that be?” I asked.

“Bobby Inman,” he replied. “He and I met frequently when I was director.”

“Well, yes, I knew the admiral….” Admiral Bobby Ray Inman was the first naval intelligence officer to earn four stars. I met him and briefed him on a few occasions when he was Director of Naval Intelligence and Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and I was a lieutenant commander serving as an analyst in Washington, D.C. I was never a member of his inner circle that continued to run Naval Intelligence after he went on to be Director of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. President Bill Clinton in December 1993 asked Admiral Inman to be Secretary of Defense, but his January 1994 public comment about reaching a “comfort level” with Clinton as commander-in-chief led to his withdrawal.

“Wait! You’re that James W. Plummer?”

He smiled and nodded. I was taken aback. My new volunteer was the distinguished Lockheed Corporation engineer who had led its reconnaissance satellite program, then served as Undersecretary of the Air Force and Director of the then super-secret National Reconnaissance Office from 1973 to 1976. His accomplishments were commended and his contributions were honored by the nation’s intelligence community and its engineering societies. Only then did I recall having met with him briefly in his Pentagon office on some long forgotten item of business. He, of course, wouldn’t recall me.

He had retired in Bend. And here he was, serving as a volunteer wilderness information specialist and—at his insistence—cleaning trailhead restrooms. He certainly is the most distinguished person I have known, and who, as far as I know, ever served as a Forest Service volunteer. Jim, as he insisted I call him, volunteered at the Green Lakes Trailhead Information Station in 1997 and 1998 because he wanted to, and did an outstanding job.

“Les, thanks for giving Dad this chance,” his son once said to me. “All the time he was in engineering and space, he really wanted to be a ranger.”

Jim Plummer died in Medford, Oregon, on January 16, 2013, at age ninety-two.

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