James M. Peden loved the City of Raleigh, and was grateful for the many opportunities it provided. His philosophy, which he instilled in his family, was to give back to the community which had been supportive of him.
Jim Peden was born in the mountains of North Carolina, but he considered Raleigh his true home.
He came to Raleigh in 1916 to attend State College, where he quickly became known for his academic and leadership abilities. After graduation, he worked in Pittsburgh as a teacher and in Chicago with Illinois Steel before returning to Raleigh to work for Raleigh Iron Works. In 1931, at the height of the Depression, he took a “leap of faith” and bought the fabricated steel division from the bankrupt Raleigh Iron Works. Business started slow, but with many sales calls and much hard work, he began to turn it around. During World War II, Peden Steel fabricated barges for the War Department, earning the distinguished
Army-Navy E Award for exceptional equipment production, bringing acclaim to Peden Steel and the City of Raleigh. Many of Raleigh’s developers and municipal leaders also counted on Peden’s commitment to excellence. Wake County Court House, Cameron Village, Crabtree Valley Mall, and Edenton Street Church, and countless schools, commercial buildings and highway bridges began with Peden Steel.
The hard work and success of his company was matched only by Peden’s resolve to give back to the community that supported him and his business.
As a leader in the Raleigh business community, Peden served as a director of Security National Bank, (now Bank of America), and as President of First Federal Savings and Loan. Peden chaired the Civil Service Commission for municipal employees, and served on the Zoning Commission.
In the civic arena, Peden helped organize the Raleigh Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), and served as its second president. He served as president of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the Raleigh Engineers Club, and the Kiwanis Club, and twice as president of the Carolina Country Club.
A faithful supporter of his alma mater, Peden served with distinction on the boards of the NC State Alumni Association, Wolf Pack Club and Engineering Foundation. Through his work at the Foundation, he helped bring outstanding academic professionals to the university.
A dedicated member of Christ Episcopal Church, Peden served several times as Senior Warden, as a member of the pastoral search committee, and as chairman of the 150th Anniversary committee. His exceptional leadership in the moving of the First State Bank of North Carolina from the church property to an adjoining lot had a lasting impact on the city, allowing much needed church building expansion and preservation of the important historic building.
Jim Peden was known for the dedication, wisdom, and wit he brought to every involvement on behalf of his beloved city. His influence endures in the lives of those he inspired, and in the myriad structures, organizations, and institutions he created and enriched throughout the City of Raleigh.
For a full version of this article, please visit The Raleigh Hall of Fame.