Bruce was born in Washington, D.C., and received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Howard University. He taught German at South Carolina State College before studying at the University of Frankfurt am Main in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. He arrived at the U. of C. to join the Ph. D. program in 1961. He taught there until 1989 then took a three-year leave of absence to go to Japan to teach English Conversation at Soka University in Hachioji. Bruce took early retirement from the U. of C. in 1992 and remained at Soka until 2000, before returning to Chicago.
A member of the Beta Boule’ Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Bruce served as secretary and chairman of the German II section of the Midwest Modern Language Association and, at different points, as both secretary and chairman of the Committee to Amend the Constitution and Bylaws of the American Association of Teachers of German.
He was married to fellow Howard student Grace Rebecca Young in 1956. The marriage ended in 1981. The couple had two sons, Jason Whittington Bruce (deceased) and James Charles (Deborah) Bruce, Jr. He is also survived by James’s two sons, Jordan James Bruce and Justin Dalton Bruce, by Jason’s two sons William Atticus Bruce and Matthew Charles Bruce and by Jason’s widow, La Veda Underwood Bruce.
There will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at SGI-USA International Buddhist Cultural Center, 1455 S. Wabash Ave., in Chicago.