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Alva Moore Stevenson

chemist, Olympic medalist, and university professor, was born to Isabelle Lu Valle and James Arthur Garfield Lu Valle in San Antonio, Texas. His father was a newspaper editor in Washington, D.C., and an itinerant preacher; his mother was a secretary. Lu Valle's parents separated when he was still young, and James moved with his mother and sister to Los Angeles in 1923. His father traveled worldwide after the separation and was in Europe for a time; Lu Valle remained estranged from him. At a young age he became a voracious reader. A chemistry set given him as a child changed his original interest in the sciences from engineering to chemistry.

James was an excellent student at McKinley Junior High School His scholastic record there qualified him to attend the competitive Los Angeles Polytechnic High School where his academic interests in science and math were further cultivated ...