James Harold Keller, S.E.C.: A Biography

“I’ve done a lot of things, been in a lot of businesses, I’ve lived on the edge. I’m completely self-educated and not a Democrat. I didn’t vote for Clinton. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

Jim Keller, Newport Beach, California, 1994.

keller.jpgJim Keller was born in Reno, Nevada in the depths of the Great Depression. His parents soon divorced and young Jim was moved from relative to relative, and boarding house to boarding house, as a youngster.

“I always had pocket money from the word go. If I wanted a new pair of jeans, or anything for that matter, I had to earn the money to pay for it.”

When he was 5 years old, Jim Keller was shining shoes for fifteen cents a pair. By age 6, he was sharpening knives, shining shoes and painting fences by going door-to-door soliciting business, and selling and delivering newspapers in his spare time. At the age of 11, Jim worked as a delivery boy for a Dairy from 2 a.m. until 8 a.m., for 50 cents, per hour and breakfast.

Leaving school in the 10th grade, Jim went to work in Yerington, Nevada, where he worked on a 350-acre ranch and lived in a tent by an irrigation ditch. Picking up the eggs, feeding the chickens and slopping the hogs were Jim’s duty before he went to work on the ranch. In a clue to Jim’s personality he revealed that the wages paid to a top hand on this ranch were $6.00 per day. In order to gain employment when the rancher said he had none, Jim offered to work without wages and let the rancher determine if his work was worth wages. Within one month, Jim Keller was receiving wages as a top hand.

When the Korean War broke out, Jim joined the US Air Force, where he worked in the motor at Stead Air Force Base pool and received a medical discharge. Jim re-enlisted in the Army National Guard where he continued his service as an Operations Intelligence Sergeant.

Working as a construction laborer, apprentice roofer, ditch digger, and a fire fighter, his career as a businessman was varied in experience. While exaggerating his age was a necessity, Jim obtained a chauffeur’s license and worked as an insulation and siding installation foreman in Ely, Nevada at age 15. Returning to Reno, he met Marion, his present wife, at the local drive- in, and in 1952 began working as a ditch digger for Sierra Pacific Power and Light. He also moonlighted at the Dairy on weekends. During this time frame, while working two jobs, Jim and Marion were married. He was 18 years old, weighed 145 lbs. and ran a 145 lb. jackhammer. “I could make that jack hammer sit up and sing.”

Jim’s marriage to Marion is still alive and well after 50 years and their love has produced four children, two girls and two boys, and eight grandchildren. Obviously, he didn’t work all the time by this stage of life.

Moving through the ranks of the Dairy to sales manager, he then became the sales manager for a Bakery with 17 routes. Desiring to quit traveling, Jim got a real estate salesman’s license in 1962, with MAAG Real Estate Company, in Reno. Within one year, while still running the Bread Route, he was the top producer of a twenty five-person brokerage company. His second deal was a grocery store.

He took his broker’s exam and opened Keller Realty in 1965. Keller Realty grew to three offices and twenty-five salespeople.

Jim lists several individuals as being influential in his life. Mel Quick, who was the Dairy Manager, taught him the work ethic that persists to this day. He was eleven years old when the Yerington rancher taught him what a “goldbrick” was and Jim determined that no one would ever call him a goldbrick. As a real estate broker, the greatest influences were Richard Reno, Chuck Chatham, Cliff Weaver, Bob Steele, Colby Sandlian, Don Dubeau, Jack Hunt and Paul Winger.

Jim has been well known as a gun fancier and shooter since he was a child and “didn’t have many shells, so I had to hit what I shot at;” Jim lived on deer and jackrabbits. He pursues collecting guns and is well recognized as a trap skeet and sporting clays shooter.

Space and time considerations do not permit a complete listing of Jim Keller’s accomplishments, but the Boys and Girls clubs voted him the Man of the Year in 1993. He has been a director of the Boys and Girls Clubs for fifteen years. As past president of the 550 member Men’s Clubs of Reno, he has been recognized by his friends and neighbors. As a member of the Society of Exchange Counselors, he was Counselor of the year in 1974, and President in 1978. Solicited and elected without opposition to the post of S.E.C. President in 1984, Jim has received honors from his peers that few can aspire to.

When asked about his words to live by or advice to give, Jim responded in true Keller fashion “Luck is pluck. The harder I work, the luckier I get. Do what is right when no one is looking.”

Husband, Father, Grandfather, Entrepreneur, Laborer, Real Estate Broker, Exchangor, Community Leader, Shooter but above all Worker, Jim Keller.

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