VICKSBURG, MISS., January 6, 2017 – President Barack Obama reappointed the Honorable R.D. James as a member of the Mississippi River Commission on January 5, 2017. MRC appointments are nominated by the President of the United States and vetted by the U.S. Senate.
Mr. James, a self-employed farmer and manager of cotton gins and grain elevators for the A.C. Riley Company in New Madrid, Missouri, has now served on the Commission continuously since 1981. With 36 years of MRC experience, he is now the second longest serving member in the history of storied Commission. President Ronald Reagan appointed R. D. James as a Civil Engineer civilian member to the Mississippi River Commission in 1981. He was reappointed in 1991 by President H.W. Bush and in 2003 by President George W. Bush. While serving as a member of the Mississippi River Commission, Mr. James has toured and inspected civil works engineering features and engaged water resources stakeholders across the greater Mississippi Drainage Basin, which encompasses 31 states and more than 250 major rivers and tributaries, draining 41 percent of the United States. He developed superior expertise in inland navigation and flood-control development by fostering strong ties and in-depth understanding of conditions along every major tributary of the Mississippi River: the upper Mississippi River, the Ohio River, the Missouri River, the Arkansas River, the Illinois River, the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River. In 2009, Mr. James received the prestigious Bronze de Fleury medal for his significant contributions to Army engineering.
During the commission’s inspection trips, Mr. James collaborated with U. S. Army Corps of Engineers leadership at the district, division and national levels, to include Chiefs of Engineers and Assistant Secretaries of the Army for Civil Works, as well as numerous governors, U.S. Senators and Representatives, in each of those areas promoting improved flood control and navigation.
His duties with the Mississippi River Commission also resulted in overseas missions to represent the United States in fact finding and engineering solutions with the Mekong River Commission. In this capacity, Mr. James traveled to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
During the historic flood of 2011, he served continuously for 30 plus days to ensure proper performance of the Mississippi River and Tributaries flood control system as the record-setting flood crest moved downstream from Cairo, Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico.
As a Civilian Commissioner, Mr. James helps the presidentially appointed river engineering experts oversee the massive Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) Project. The Commission, established in 1879, includes 3 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Generals, 1 NOAA Admiral, and 3 senior civilians. The Commission's authority extends the entire length of the river and transcends regional politics and provides for greater public participation.
Since the MR&T was authorized by the 1928 Flood Control Act, the Nation's $14 billion investment in MR&T construction projects (including levees, floodwalls, reservoirs, floodways, and channel improvement operation and maintenance) have prevented more than $639 billion in damages. It is a comprehensive, unified system of public works that provides unprecedented flood risk management and an equally efficient navigation channel.
Based on feedback from the public, and advances in engineering, the MRC has made hundreds of improvements to the MR&T system over the last 80 plus years and those improvements helped prevent 234 billion dollars in damages during the Great 2011 Flood alone. While employed with the Kentucky Department of Water Resources engineering office, R.D. attended the University of Kentucky and graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1971. James received the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce 2007 Agri Business Award and was the New Madrid County Outstanding Conservation Farmer of 1987. He presently serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, Memphis, Tennessee; Board Member, Cotton Producers of Missouri, Kennett, Missouri.
He is a past member of both the Board of Directors of the U.S. Bank of Sikeston, Missouri, and the New Madrid County Board of Education (served as the president from 1980-1998).
A native of Fulton County, Kentucky, R.D. is married to the former Virginia "Jennye" Riley of New Madrid Missouri. Their son, Albert Riley James, is a self-employed farmer and operations manager for the A.C. Riley Cotton Company. They also had one daughter, Virginia Elizabeth James, deceased.