Unbeknownst to me, I was selected by a committee of my peers to receive the prestigious Jill Blakeman Award, given to a “member whose work best exemplifies the spirit of the Guild (of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, D.C.) and who has made an original and significant contribution to the operations of the Guild, or who has advised the Guide profession in another way.”
The award was presented to me by Guild President, Jackie Frend, at this week’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
No Wonder Jim Carr Earns the Blakeman Award!
By Pete McCall
Nearly every time I see Jim Carr, he’s communicating--via smartphone or face to face. He seems always to be busy whether researching facts for his next extraordinary tour or lining up another exceptional educational opportunity for fellow guides.
It was no surprise to me that James R. Carr was selected to receive the Guild’s Guide of the Year Award for 2018. Many members agree his selection was long-overdue. However, Jim was completely surprised. “No one said anything to me,” he recalled. “I certainly didn’t lobby for the award.”
Jim predicts he’ll “probably cry” when accepting the Guild’s Jill Blakeman Award at the Annual Meeting & Awards Ceremony on Jan. 8. Dating to 1991, the annual award honors “a Full Member whose work best exemplifies the spirit of the Guild and who has made an original and significant contribution to the operations of the Guild, or who has advised the Guide profession in another significant way.”
Since joining the Guild in 2001, our honoree has served on the Board of Directors, received a Guild Service Award and achieved status as a Guild Certified Master Guide (CMG). As CGM program cochair, “Jim works constantly to find and share information valuable to guides and to research and offer programs to advance our knowledge and skills,” said his nominator, former Guild President Tammy Belden. “He works tirelessly to mentor and assist new guides… As a guide, Jim is without parallel. His knowledge and expertise in dealing with groups has been chronicled many times by his clients.”
Here’s what former Guild President Joe Steinbock stated: “One of the reasons I like being a member of the Guild is our marvelous community of intelligent, talented, articulate and loyal colleagues. I am amazed at those outstanding guides who are committed to the Guild for the long haul, contributing their time and talents year after year. As a result, we have amazing offerings such as the Guild CMG program, led by Jim Carr and Shannon Mikush. Jim’s wide-ranging and insightful creativity is one reason the CMG tours and experiences are so fascinating. His work with Arlington National Cemetery has proven valuable to the Guild and the entire tour industry.
“Jim’s military, academic and creative background have provided him with a wide variety of skills and interests that he has brought to bear as both a guide and Guild leader. His international experience and his Puerto Rican heritage enrich his life and his work. He is a terrific writer, a strategic thinker and a great colleague when on tour. And he can be funny,” Joe added.
Jim’s experience as a government official and military officer certainly prepared him to emerge as an inspirational, hard-working and well-disciplined Guild leader. He previously worked for eight federal agencies, plus the State of Maryland and the United Nations, and taught at both the secondary and college levels. As a lifelong learner himself, Jim aims to share his experience and knowledge—plus his enthusiasm and energy—to inspire everyone to do their best.
“While a federal executive, I was honored to serve eight years as an interagency advisor to the Presidential Management Fellows,” said Jim. He provided monthly training and inspirational speakers and led the Fellows on educational trips around the U.S. and Canada. Jim called this experience “a great apprenticeship for me to later serve as cochair of the CMG program with Shannon.”
Jim added, “I worked for two wonderful organizations before becoming a guide: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. As dean of the EPA Institute, I had nationwide responsibility for the training and education of 18,000 employees.” As a civil affairs officer, Jim helped put broken governments together and assist refugees from war-torn Vietnam, Cambodia, Palestine, Croatia and Serbia.
Jim also played a role in rescuing monumental works of art from areas ravaged by war. (Remember the movie “Monuments Men.”) As an expert on military history and monuments, Jim finds it appropriate to use his as Internet address: “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
A colonel in the Army Reserve, Jim was dispatched to Panama to meet with Noriega’s military advisor in 1989-90. He served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and subsequently was called back to duty in Kuwait and Iraq. For his outstanding service, he received a Bronze Star with two Legions of Merit.
Add up his 35 years as a federal executive and 31 years in the military and you get 66 years of public service. Not bad for such a youthful-looking “Renaissance Man!”
A Ph. D candidate, Jim holds graduate degrees from the University of Cincinnati, American University and the University of Southern California. He has travelled quite a distance since driving a New York taxi cab as a young man. Jim attributes his love of learning to his multilingual, architect father, whom he called “a real Renaissance Man.”
Jim was inspired to become a tour guide nearly 18 years ago—before he retired from EPA. He was having lunch at Pentagon City with a female tour guide who seemed amazed at his breadth of knowledge about Washington’s history and monuments. She suggested that Jim share his knowledge as a DC licensed tour guide.
So, in 2001, he enrolled in Maricar Donato’s training course, which he liked enough to pursue guiding as another career—at first, on a part-time basis. It was a challenging time to guide in the wake of 9/11. “Security got a lot tighter,” he remembered, but “it’s even worse now.”
Jim said the Guild has helped fill a “big void” in his life after retirement. The Guild provided the camaraderie that he missed from government service. Jim’s passion for guiding stems from his love of America and Washington’s history and architecture. He is especially keen to spotlight Arlington National Cemetery and the three Roosevelts: Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor. He is currently preparing a book on the historic cemetery and, as the Guild’s liaison to ANC, keeps us updated on new developments there.
Jim’s reputation as a consummate guide has attracted many high-profile and wealthy clients, but he still enjoys working with youths, especially inner-city kids and minorities. And Jim is always available to mentor new guides.
“At a personal level,” Joe observed, “Jim’s empathy is perhaps the quality I value most. It was perhaps not so surprising to look up from my misery last April to find Jim there with me at my mother’s funeral. So both professionally and personallyt, I am delighted that Jim has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Jill Blakeman Award. Well deserved!”
No wonder the Guild has finally recognized its own “Living Monument.”