James Minor was no stranger to hard work. As the son of a sharecropper, he grew up in Alabama very poor but learned from his father the value of hard work. The family worked extremely hard year-round, which was necessary for survival. Minor was always very mechanically inclined. He could work on any motor, troubleshoot any issues and quickly fix them, keeping necessary equipment always running.
Never missing an opportunity to work and help his family, Minor joined the Civilian Conservation Corps around 17 years old. The CCC was started by President Roosevelt and was a program that provided jobs for millions of young unemployed and unmarried men during the Great Depression. Approximately 3 million men worked to conserve and improve America’s public lands and natural resources while helping their families financially. Minor worked in a forest area near home before being sent to Nevada, where they built scenic roads, bridges, overpasses, and the rock walls at an overlook. Minor’s main job was to work on the equipment they used during construction. Their camp was close to an Indian tribe, and Minor, along with the other young men, built a bridge and ran water lines to allow the tribe access to fresh water. Minor even constructed a washing machine for the women washing clothes in the river. In his off time, Minor started driving an ambulance for the community and delivered a set of twins in the back of the ambulance.
In April of 1942, Minor married the love of his life, Ruby. They had known each other their entire lives, and even though his mother wanted him to marry another, love won out. Minor’s mother-in-law was the midwife in town and had even delivered most of his siblings. Unfortunately, two of Minor’s siblings passed as infants, and to this day, he still takes flowers to their gravesites.
Only a short time after the marriage, Minor was drafted by the United States Army and was sent to Fort Benning, GA, for basic and infantry training. Minor spent most of his time during World War II in Italy and Germany. Once again, due to his exceptional skills as a mechanic, he was tasked with keeping equipment running.
While Minor was in Italy, food was scarce, so he took it upon himself to go out on maneuvers to find food for the men. He would bring back eggs, honey, whatever he could locate, always returning with enough for everyone. Even earning an Italian nickname, Boocu, which the men said translated to something similar to “lots and lots.”
Once Minor made his way to Germany, General Alexander Patch selected him as his personal driver. General Patch is considered one of the most Underrated Generals of World War II according to an excerpt from an upcoming book, Extreme War, by Terrence Poulos and used in an article written by Keith E. Bonn, “He (General Patch) was the first American commander to drive the Japanese off a major island; commanded soldiers from North America, Africa, and Europe in a stunningly successful invasion of the European mainland; led the first Allied units to successfully establish themselves along the Rhine; and defeated the last German offensive in the west. Other than Lucian Truscott, he was the American to command a division, corps, and field army in combat. He was the only American general to command large forces in three distinct theaters, namely, a division and corps in the Pacific Theater; an army in the Mediterranean Theater during the invasion of southern France; and an army in the European Theater.”
During the war, Generals were highly targeted by the enemy, so this was a particularly dangerous job for Minor. General Patch used to say, “I am going to sleep in the jeep with Jim because he will protect me.” Minor said he did what he had to do and was just trying to survive to get back to his wife and new daughter. When the war ended, Minor was in Germany. He was one of three men that worked closely with General Patch, and the General made sure they all returned home aboard the ship with him.
Once discharged from the Army, Minor was welcomed home by his wife and daughter. As they made the journey back to Alabama, Minor stopped for a stranded motorist and fixed his car quickly. The stranded motorist was a Texas oilfield owner who said he had 1000 men working for him and not one of them would’ve been able to accomplish what he had on the car so quickly. The man offered him a job on the spot. Minor always wondered what could’ve happened if he had taken that job, but his wife wanted to be close to family in Alabama.
Once settled in Alabama, Minor started working as a foreman for a box company but knew he wanted to further his education. So the hardworking and determined Minor spent his weekends working another job in Birmingham and discovered a school he wanted to enroll in for electrical training. He continually worked multiple jobs while training. Minor wired and painted houses, repaired TVs, and would even bring his wife and children with him on jobs. His wife Ruby was small enough to get into the attic and run wires to provide electricity for many houses across Alabama and Mississippi.
When Minor completed his training, he started working for Hayes International Corporation. The company manufactured cargo systems, rocket vehicles, control systems, and components, and offered engineering services to private and governmental clients. Using his strong reasoning power, Minor would troubleshoot issues on large aircraft while in the air. He even learned to take off and land the planes. Of course, not many people would want to take an airplane up in the air with electrical problems, but Minor loved everything about it, saying he had a much better opportunity to figure out what was wrong while he was in the air.
The couple had three daughters and loved to travel with them as much as possible. By the time the girls graduated high school, they had visited every state East of the Mississippi as well as Canada. The couple loved helping anyone that needed it and frequently had family members stay with them until they could find employment.
Eventually, Ruby convinced Minor to retire early so they could spend quality time together while not working. The couple was always very loving and rarely argued. They were crazy about each other, always holding hands everywhere they went. When Ruby became ill a two years ago, Minor lay in the bed with her and held her hand until she passed.
Minor now resides with his daughter, Zaneta (Zee), in Alabama. He loves to get out as much as possible, even if it is just a quick trip to the post office or grocery store. They recently vacationed in Tennessee, and Minor who has always had a sweet tooth was able to stock up on his favorite, sorghum syrup. He loved watching kids fish on the pier and touring the area, including the state park, in his motorized wheelchair that he calls his little car. He is also fascinated with GPS. Three to four times a year, his daughters will send letters to the family updating everyone on how he is doing and what is blooming in the garden. She will include pictures of him helping make some of his favorite desserts like applesauce and picking and popping muscadines for his favorite pie. He also loves receiving letters in return and gets plenty of correspondence from his adoring family.
This month Minor will be celebrating his 100th birthday. Invitations have gone out and 73 friends, nieces, and nephews, including two of his three remaining siblings, will be in attendance to celebrate Minor. Zee stated, “Everyone loves my daddy and loves to see he is still going on, still teasing and loving life.” Zee went on to say, “My parents always made sure life was an adventure and I am still trying to see to it that my dad is still having an adventure of some kind.”
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize James G. Minor for his service to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes. Thank you for your service, James.