James Hayward "Jim"
January 11, 1921-
August 4, 2013
Bessemer, AL- Jim Beckham was born in Birmingham, AL, on January 11, 1921, to Richard Olen and Maude Knight Beckham. He was a devoted husband, beloved father, papa, and uncle, an enthusiastic and curious traveler, a graceful tenor, a reticent WWII pilot, and a wonderful example. On August 4, 2013, at age 92, he at last, in the words of the aviator's poem, "slipped the surly bonds of Earth…and touched the face of God."
Jim was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Josephine Milton Beckham, and his brother, Richard Beckham. He is survived by: his children Suzanne B. Smith (Collier) of Hurtsboro, AL, James H. Beckham Jr. (Cheryl), and Joellyn M. Beckham (Trinket Shaw); grandchildren Reid Smith (Joanna) of Maylene, Marietta O'Neill (Brian) of Columbus, GA, Holly Beckham, and James H. "Trey" Beckham III; three great-grandchildren; special niece and nephew Eberle Knight of Houston, TX, and Herbert Baker of Seattle, WA; and cherished friend Elaine Callahan of Bessemer.
Upon graduation from Phillips High School, Jim attended Birmingham Southern College, where he was a member of the concert choir. He left college to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, becoming a 1st Lieutenant and B-24 bomber pilot in the 8th Air Force. During WWII, he flew 36 missions, including two on D-Day. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and four Bronze Stars.
After the war, he came home to wed his college sweetheart, Jo. They lived in Talladega before finally settling in Jo's hometown of Bessemer, where they reared their family.
Jim had a 44-year career with Alabama Power Company, where he began as assistant to President Walter Bouldin, later managed the communications and training department and ultimately retired as educational and institutional affairs director. He was past chairman of the Alabama Advisory Council on Vocational Education and past president of the Bessemer Area Chamber of Commerce. He served on numerous professional and civic boards, including the Alumni Advisory Board of the Auburn University School of Business, the Birmingham Area Private Industry Council, and the Girls Club of Bessemer.
Jim was a devoted member of Bessemer First United Methodist Church, serving both on the board of stewards and as a member of and frequent soloist in the chancel choir. After moving to a retirement community in Vestavia, Jim joined Mountain Chapel United Methodist Church where he found the open arms of a new church family—and the open hearts of those in the choir loft, a true gift that allowed him to continue being a part of the choral music he so loved.
The family wishes to thank the many gentle souls of New Beacon Hospice and of Greenbriar at the Altamont who have traded wise cracks with him and cared beautifully for him for the last several years, especially Carolyn "Sarge" Brown, Ruby Cooper, Roda Kilgore, Rowena Crump, and Susan Henderson.
Visitation at Ridout's Valley Chapel (Homewood) on Wednesday, August 7th at 5-7 pm. Graveside services at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Bessemer on Thursday, August 8th at 9:00 am, followed by a memorial service at 11:00 am at Mountain Chapel United Methodist Church.
Published in Columbus Ledger-Enquirer on Aug. 7, 2013