Jim was born Dec. 26th 1906 in Onamia, Minn. He passed away Oct. 2, 1988 at the age of 82. He was raised on the Chippewa Indian reservation and enjoyed the native games of stick ball and running.
He once remarked that had he known that the family was moving out west he would have started running and it would have been easier on the mules. After a year in Montana, his family moved to Sandpoint where he attended school.
In the late 1920’s at Sandpoint High School, Jim DeMers was a state champion shot putter, discus thrower and javelin thrower. He is the only SHS athlete to ever win three events at a state track meet. On top of that he also placed second in the 100 yard dash while scoring 38 of Sandpoint’s 40 points.
He was an all state fullback in football and an all state guard in basketball and was also considered a great baseball player. Jim was big for his era standing 6’3 and weighing 235 lbs in high school.
However, it was the day that Coach Al Fox handed Jim a javelin that Jim’s athletic career really took off. By employing the same overhand throwing motion used to throw a base ball and the same steps as a bowler might use Jim soon became the first high school athlete ever to throw the wooden spear over 200 feet. Jim’s new way of throwing the javelin while running and holding it above his head was at odds with the way other throwers used in other nations. He never minded the teasing from the other throwers. His way worked for him.
Recognizing his superior skill, SHS sent Jim and Coach Fox to the 1925 World High School track and field competition in Chicago. Jim set a National High school record with a throw of 205.10 inches. This record lasted 13 years. The year before at the 1924 Olympics a throw of 206.63/4 inches had won Olympic gold. In 1925 he established a State record of 202.6 inches and has reached athletic immortality with that throw as Idaho no longer sanctions the event.
In 1927 he returned to Chicago and set his second high school world record as it was called in those days. From there it was a shot at the 1928 Olympics. Jim made the team and was issued a U.S. Olympic uniform. During training he threw out his shoulder and his hopes of an Olympic title for the United States was dashed. Competing for the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Jim was the first American thrower to throw over 220 feet. Later in Pittsburgh he set the American and National records with a throw of 222.6 inches. All American status followed in 1930 and Jim was named the only Javelin thrower selected to the All Time All American team in 1931. This was the only time in track and field history that this team has been announced.
Next came the 1932 Olympics held in Los Angeles. While traveling with Heck Dryer and Herman Brix, Jim and his companions were sampling seafood in Pebble Beach and contacted ptomaine poisoning and “that ended that as Jim would later say”.
Jim served 20 years on the Redondo Beach Police Department and was chief of Police in Winslow Arizona. He retired to Sandpoint in the 1960’s and had a wonder life with his wife Kay.
Jim is also a member of the Sandpoint High School Hall of Fame, The University of Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame and now the North Idaho Hall of Fame.