Historian Makes History: Jim Sleeper

Orange County historian receives lifetime achievement award.

by Erika Torres
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News, March 22, 2007

Orange County historian and Tustin resident James Sleeper was honored by the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society for a lifetime of achievement on Tuesday. Sleeper is the author of numerous books, including “The Orange County Almanac of Historic Oddities.” Sleeper is often quoted by local writers and reporters as a source for information on Orange County’s birth and growth.

“I do have an affinity for newspapers especially when they call me 10 minutes before deadline to fill in some blank,” Sleeper said.

Guy Ball, a Society board member, said Sleeper is a great role model for budding historians. “It was time for us to recognize the amazing knowledge Jim has and the generosity he has in helping others with that information.”

Q: How does it feel to be given a lifetime achievement award?

Old. They’re honoring me for being old. I’ll survive the experience. It goes with the territory, I suppose, being the alleged reigning Orange County historian.

Q: How did you become a historian for Orange County?

I started out being a writer of short stories, but by the time I got out of college all the magazines that published short stories folded. So having been a classical literature major, history was on the other side of the coin.

Obviously, I am a writer and a researcher and to fulfill both of those it was logical that I would pursue local history as I was growing up here. I am fourth generation on one side (of my family) and third generation on the other in Orange County. I always had an interest (in history) as my family was reasonably prominent. My origins are all here.

Q: What are some interesting tidbits about Tustin’s history?

Tustin is really the nicest of the small towns in Orange County, and as other areas filled up Tustin inherited many of the old-time families, ranch families particularly. Tustin was pretty much agrarian-oriented, like most other cities, until after the close of World War II. It has many interesting people and character.

Historian Jim Sleeper

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