Shirley James

Shirley James, long-time leader of the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage Committee and other civic projects, died Thursday, April 12, 2007, at Deaconess Hospital after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 75. Shirley was a native of Butte, Mont., and had lived and traveled throughout the world before making Evansville her home in 1975.

Evansville Community Leader

Shirley James was an Evansville community and environment activist. She helped organize the West Side Improvement Association in 1976 and served as its president for all but two of the next 20 years, waging wars against urban sprawl, drainage problems, litter and junk yards, creek debris and other pollution.

She led development of the Howell Wetlands, was a force behind restoration of the Pagoda and volunteered her time and expertise in many other projects. But it was her tireless commitment to the Pigeon Creek Greenway for which she was best known.

She served as chairman of the advisory committee for the past 18 years, as a volunteer working often full time to help plan and gain funding for the Greenway Trail, that she was convinced would add tremendously to the quality of life in Evansville, Indiana.

She received many honors for her leadership, including the prestigious Rotary Club Civic Award in 2000. Shirley once told a newspaper reporter that her life had been filled with adventures similar to those in novels she read by flashlight beneath the covers late at night as a child.

She became a mental-health planner for the Tri-State Regional Health Planning Agency and later worked with then-19-year-old Mark Owen to establish the Youth Service Corps. But in 1972, her husband was transferred, this time to Europe, where she spent her spare time traveling until they returned to Evansville in 1975 and bought their home on rural Middle Mount Vernon Road. It was homeownership that led her to become a community activist. Neighbors had been plagued by illegal dumping in the West Side area for years, and it affected the James’ property.


Shirley attended the University of Evansville, earning a degree in psychology and sociology.

Shirley James Gateway Plaza

The Shirley James Gateway Plaza is a tribute to Mrs Shirley James for her dedication and service for the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage. Designed by VPS Architects and RhodesWork, Ltd. the Plaza shows the different impacts transportation has made on Evansville’s progress.

The Gateway Plaza is located along the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage south of the Lloyd Expressway at the Mead Johnson Trailhead,; 1501 W. John Street. The sturctures depict six different forms of transportation. The Greenway Historic Committee researched and wrote the text for the history panels telling how transportation made Evansville into a commercial center.

Shirley James Plaza is near Riverside Drive and Fulton Avenue, about 1.5 miles from the Greenway’s starting point at Sunrise Park.

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