Oasis - About Us
Jim Toy's Bio - Page 1
Trained in French, violin, and musicology, Jim over time became aware that he was called to a
life of social service, working together with the disadvantaged, the underserved, the
stigmatized and the oppressed, and advocating for their rights. This vocation was perhaps foretold
by the selfless life of his parents, Ruth and James Toy, his Baptist-missionary grandparents,
Alice and Samuel Hamblen, his violin teacher, Sam Gelfer, and a series of radical Episcopal priests,
Joseph Dickson, David Gracie, James Markunas, and Robert Morrison, with whom he worked at St.
Joseph's Episcopal Church in Detroit from 1957 through 1971. A clue to his future calling may have
been provided in his supporting the right of Corsican high school students to publicly express
their disapproval of a modern string quartet at a concert by the Vegh Quartet in Bastia, Corsica,
where Jim was serving as an assistant d'anglais (assistant in English) in the local lycee (public
Jim, a Chinese-American, was from his early years a survivor of harassment on the basis of race:
a high school classmate remembers that, during World War II, he often saw Jim wearing around his
neck a cardboard placard proclaiming that he was not Japanese.
At Denison University, where Jim received a B.A. degree, he joined a non-discriminatory,
"American-letter" fraternity, the American Commons Club. Eleanor Roosevelt was given ACC's
fraternity pin in recognition of her support of Marian Anderson and other African Americans. At the
award ceremony Jim had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Roosevelt, some years after he had tolled
the bell of the local Episcopal Church to mark the nationwide observance of Franklin Delano
In June of 1963 Jim was blessed to march down Woodward Avenue in Detroit in the Civil Rights
March headed by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., some two months before Dr. King gave
his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. King gave a shortened version of that
speech after the Detroit Civil Rights March.