James W. Baber was born on June 12, 1911, in Alexandria. The son of Ashley and Bertie Baber, he attended Alexandria High School and later served for three years with the Alexandria Fire Department. He married Virginia Pitts and, living in Alexandria, they began a family. On October 1, 1935, he became an Alexandria police officer.
The young patrol officer, called “Bootie” by his friends and colleagues, was known for his good nature. Over the next 27 years, Bootie Baber enjoyed great success at the Alexandria Police Department, serving as a detective and then detective sergeant. In 1947, he was promoted to lieutenant and five years later, to captain. In 1960, he was named deputy inspector and oversaw traffic enforcement and operations.
A sports enthusiast himself, Deputy Inspector Baber was an integral part of the police youth camp in Kilmarnock, serving as director and later as president of the camp’s advisory board.
On October 19, 1962, Deputy Inspector Baber had just finished working at a high school football game. It was a busy Friday night, and Deputy Inspector Baber and another officer were looking for a man who had shot and killed someone at a Queen Street restaurant. While searching, Deputy Inspector Baber answered a call for an officer in trouble at Queen and North Fayette streets.
Private George A. Sellers had detained two subjects who were fighting and Deputy Inspector Baber seized one of them, a 17-year-old youth. The young man tried to break away and after a struggle, he was subdued. But Deputy Inspector Baber had a heart attack and collapsed. He was pronounced dead at 11:07 p.m. at Alexandria hospital.
Deputy Inspector Baber, age 51, was survived by his wife and their sons, Patrick and Robert. He is buried at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Alexandria.