Jim received degrees in American history from Cornell and Temple and joined the Smithsonian in 1967 to work on the papers of the institution’s first secretary, Joseph Henry. He then became special assistant and later executive assistant to four Smithsonian secretaries, working on budget, personnel and policy matters, and serving as their liaison to the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents. He also became director of the Smithsonian’s first two historic buildings, the Castle and the Arts and Industries Building. He retired in 2007 after a dispute over the proper procedure for handling transcripts of a regents’ meeting. To honor Hobbins’s 40 years of service, the three ottomans in the commons of the Smithsonian Castle were named after him. Since his retirement, Hobbins has spearheaded an effort to select and fund a qualified historian to write the history of the Smithsonian and co-founded the Smithsonian Alumni Program.
History continues to be a passion. Note his current beside reading: “Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe” by Chris DeRose.