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Amazing Life of Jim Bransford 1930 - 2020

James E. Bransford was born on December 11, 1930, the eldest of five children of Aurora and Hugh L. Bransford, Jr.  They were raised in a small town in Maryland. A product of segregated schools, Jim was accepted at Princeton University but opted to attend a historically Black college, Lincoln University. Jim also attended the University of Maryland, served in the Army during the Korean War, and eventually attended and graduated from Macalester College with a biochemistry degree in 1957. Jim married, raised a family, and shared with his children his love of literature, music, and theater. Tanya is currently the Presiding Judge in Hennepin County Juvenile Court. Daughter Traci practices law in New York City.


Jim was an active community member and a successful research chemist at Honeywell and the V.A. Hospital. He served on the Maplewood Human Rights Commission and judged many local and state science fairs. During this period, Jim waged a monumental battle with alcoholism. He lost his career, marriage, home and nearly lost his life in two car accidents. Jim entered chemical dependency treatment SEVEN times. May 21, 1974 marked the beginning of his 32 years (to date) of sobriety.


Humble work marked Jim’s road to redemption. He went on to build a new career in chemical dependency treatment and was a founding member of what is now African American Family Services. He pioneered in the field of treating men for domestic violence at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center and drove a unique chemical dependency/domestic violence program called the Excelsior Project.

After years of being a confirmed and highly eligible bachelor, Jim was smitten with Barbara Powers. The two became one in February 1995 and they have remained happily married and supportive of each other through various life changes. He became a father to another daughter through marriage, Alcenya Ajaye, a Victim Services Coordinator for the Public Safety Department. Jim lovingly embraces his new role as grandfather to all his grandchildren, biological and those by marriage.

Jim retired with 13 years of service from the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office as Dispositional Advisor, where he touched multiple generations of families with his plain-spoken and practical approach to solving life’s problems. After retirement, he was still active in the community working with African American men and their families, as well as our East African brothers and sisters to help improve their access to the courts. He is involved in the HIV/AIDs ministry at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, and he still volunteers at Phyllis Wheatley and Oasis of Love.

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In 2005, the African American community almost lost Jim to serious health problems, which resulted in numerous surgeries, an extended hospital stay, and rehabilitation. In 2006, a group of African American men in the community who believed they were given a second chance to honor Jim (whom many he had helped) came together to honor and celebrate their hero and inspiration for his many years of extraordinary service to the community. In words “Give him, his roses now!” Out of that event evolved the Sons of Bransford or as the men lovely titled “The S.O.B. Award”. They, the community, and along with many awardees continue to honor his life and leadership in light of his passing on July 31, 2020.

Jim has touched multiple generations of families with his plain-spoken and practical approach to solving life’s problems. Jim was the embodiment of resiliency, tenacity, and love for family and community.  Mr. Jim Bransford is the embodiment of resiliency, tenacity, and love for family and the community. He was truly a man who walks the walk and did not just talk the talk.

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