In the 1950s during the run of Sam and Friends, Jim had gotten to know Fred Stuart, the program director at WRC-TV, Washington’s NBC affiliate. In the early 1960s, Stuart took a job at the Federal Housing Administration, and though Jim had moved to New York, Stuart recruited him to create a series of public service announcements. The earliest in 1963 were eight-second spots, but Jim quickly branched out to thirty and sixty seconds and created an array of new characters like a talking house (inspiring a Muppet Show sketch a decade later) and a ghoulish monster. Jim produced the longer spots in 1966 and 1969 and also did related radio spots with similar scripts. All of this was in the service of letting the public know about FHA home improvement loans and offering booklets from the Department of Housing and Urban Development about “Fixing Up Your Home.”
The work Jim did in September 1969 would be the last for the FHA. In November, Stuart wrote asking if Jim would be available to create some more 30-second spots. By this time, Sesame Street had premiered, and Jim was trying to extricate himself from Madison Avenue and the advertising work. His concern was that now that his characters were performing specifically for children, he didn’t want to seem like he was taking advantage of his young audiences by using their friends in advertising. He turned down the request.
Fred Stuart had a long and successful career both in the government and as a Navy reserve officer, but clearly his work with Jim was meaningful to him. When he passed away at 90 in 2011, his Washington Post obituary highlighted their collaboration as an important accomplishment.