|James J. Chatham|
James Jackson Chatham was born on June 16, 1920 to sharecroppers, Claude and Nancy Caroline Chatham, in Duluth, Georgia. At an early age, he always wanted to go and see what was down the road. He hitchhiked in his early teens in the days when it was safe to do so. At seventeen he hopped a freight train and found himself in California. He became a laborer in the CCC Camp and soon became homesick for Georgia. He arranged to be transferred to Georgia and was assigned to Camp Ruthledge, when he decided to join the Army. He was eighteen when he joined the US Army on September 1, 1938.
He spent the next twenty-two years as a defender of his country in the armed forces. He departed for the Panama Canal on June 20, 1940 and served there until June 7, 1943. On September 21, 1943, he volunteered to serve under Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill during WWII. The Marauders were tough jungle fighters who acquired fame in the China-Burma-India campaign. They became known as "Merrill Marauders," and he was always proud of this.
He was issued orders January 30, 1945, and fought in the Korean Conflict. On leave, he married Lillie Cash, March 17, 1945. He was married for thirty-two years and fathered six children ; Jane, Trish, Tom, Brenda, Jim, and Larry, who he fondly referred to as his "half dozen." Later in life, he promised a friend to look after his sons and Paul Raines became another son.
After the war, his service continued at Georgia Tech and Georgia Military. He was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska, from 1954-1956. His last assignment was a Decatur High School as an ROTC instructor, teaching young men marksmanship, survival, and leadership.
During the war he started cutting soldier's hair at the camps and realized he had talent in this area. He took the State Board while serving at Decatur High School and began barbering in the evenings part-time. Upon retirement from the Army, this became his full-time occupation. He still found time to garden and stayed busy raising his family in Doraville, Georgia.
He was widowed in 1977 and in 1982, he married Helen Dispain and they moved to the country - a fourteen acre site in Canon, Georgia. They enjoyed a wonderful life of twenty-four years. He was now a full-time farmer, one of his passions; he loved to make things grow and to share with others.
He firmly believed that to have a friend, you had to be a friend. He never met a stranger, and enjoyed many friends throughout his life.
Upon moving to Canon, he began going to church. They were in need of a minister and offered him the position. He was the pastor of Old Canon Baptist Church for 19 years.
Of all his accomplishments, he was proud to be a soldier for the Lord of his country. He was proud to be part of the 100 mile march with the Marauders that surprised the enemy by blocking the only Japanese supply line in the Hukwang Valley.
On May 5, 2006, he was marching in death, marching through the gates of Heaven.
General MacArthur said it best, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade way."