Orphaned at age 5, Jim was raised and completed high school at the Girard College for Orphans in Philadelphia. He then attended Andover for a year, participating in basketball, baseball, and glee club.
At Princeton, he participated in freshman soccer and baseball and was secretary/treasurer of the Andover Club. He left Princeton to serve in the Air Force for four years, two of them in Korea.
Jim began his career in the insurance industry in 1956, initially in Philadelphia and then in Kansas City, Mo., with Haas & Wilkerson. He founded two successful insurance brokerages, James M. Palmer Inc. and Theatre Consultants, and enjoyed mentoring and training new insurance agents until retiring in 2005.
Jim married Beatrix Bieser in 1961 and they raised four children, Jennifer, Bradley, Nancy, and Jeffrey. Jim helped to coach their sports teams and was a devoted Kansas City sports fan, holding season tickets to the Royals, Chiefs, and Jayhawks. Jim and Bea sponsored the first fully endowed basketball scholarship at the University of Kansas, which is still awarded annually.
Jim enjoyed golf, travel to Mexico and Fripp Island, S.C., and reading, especially about World War II history in the Pacific.
He is survived by Bea, their four children, and 12 grandchildren.