Dr. James Richard “Jim” Reckner

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“Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die; and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. Both life and death are parts of the same Great Adventure.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Dr. James (Jim) Richard Reckner passed away in Dallas on November 16, 2018 at the age of 78. We think this quote above from his favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt, captures the way that Jim lived his life: A great adventure shaped by duty and graced with joy.

Jim was born in Philadelphia on August 7, 1940. One of the early photos of him was taken when he was about 5 years old and he’s proudly wearing a sailor suit: It would seem his career choice was preordained, and in 1958 he embarked on his great adventure. The US Navy would take him to many exotic places, but his most important stop was Wellington, New Zealand where he met his beloved wife Middy. Middy passed away in 2016 but his love for her never faltered.

Following the joy of love, came duty. Duty called Jim to Vietnam for two tours, and his time there stirred an intellectual curiosity that would be quenched in the years to come. After retiring from the Navy, Jim earned a PhD from the University of Auckland and began his academic career. He taught history at Texas Tech University for twenty years, and during that time founded the Vietnam Center and Archive that is housed there. As director of the center, Jim forged friendships with some of the key players in the Vietnam War and received accolades and honors from a variety of academic and government organizations. While exceedingly proud of these accomplishments, his children feel that none of them compare to the love and devotion he showed as a father. In his most important role, no recognition or award would be sufficient to quantify his success.

Jim will be missed by his children, Rachel, David (Renea), and Sean (Michelle), and grandchildren Ben and Chloe. He is also survived by his in-laws (the beloved Montgomery family of New Zealand) and many siblings, nephews, and nieces. Jim is preceded in death by his parents Harry and Ellen Reckner, his sister Irene McGarvey, and his brother Harry Reckner. A memorial service will be held at Lake Ridge Chapel and Memorial Designers in Lubbock, Texas on Friday, November 30 at 10:30 am.


Memorial contributions may be made to the Texas Tech University Vietnam Center and Archive Fund for Excellence https://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/ or to the Michael J. Fox Foundation https://www.michaeljfox.org/get-involved/donation2.php .


9 thoughts on “Dr. James Richard “Jim” Reckner”

  1. You were my mentor and inspiration to build my music archive. I will always remember everything you did to help me along my career path. Such a great man!

  2. A great friend, scholar and teacher. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. He left a legacy that will last forever.

  3. Thank you for your support and inspiration. May you have fair winds and following seas, sir.

  4. Jim was a good friend and a loyal supporter of Texas Tech University. The Vietnam Center would not exist if it weren’t for him. He was a true patriot.

  5. Dr. James Reckner was a warm and beloved individual who we have had the honor and privilege of knowing and working with in order to preserve the Vietnamese Political Prisoner Collection. He had a big heart and his compassion for the South Vietnamese people whom he fought to defend during the war and whom he continued to support after the war will never be forgotten. HIs efforts have helped preserve the history of the South Vietnamese People for future generations to come. We extend our warmest condolences to his family and to the Vietnam Center for their great loss. Dr. Reckner we love you and appreciate you forever. Nancy Bui. President of The Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation

  6. Rene Pearis-Coleman

    I just learned of Dr. Reckner’s passing. Please accept my deepest condolences. Dr. Reckner was extremely helpful to me during a very stressful period during my employment at the Lubbock Public Library. I will always be grateful for his and his wife’s friendship and support.

  7. William Miller

    He was one of the kindest professors in the History program at Texas Tech. He always encouraged and motivated everyone around him.

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