James Charles Watkins was born February 29, 1916 in the small town of Deep Step, Georgia to Goody and Claudia Watkins. JC (as he was called in the family) was one of 5 surviving sons. The “Watkins Boys” worked and played hard, giving their mother plenty of gray hairs along the way. The family later moved to Macon Georgia.
James enlisted in the U.S. Navy August 12, 1935 and became signalman 3rd class in May, 1938. In 1936, while at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he met a very young Miriam Emma Hanmer. They began a courtship that was, at times, from a great distance. James and Miriam were married on July 29, 1939 and left almost immediately for San Diego. He continued to advance in Navy rating, and was Chief Signalman by October 4, 1942.
James was serving aboard the USS Dobbin when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Miriam, along with other Navy wives and families, returned to California. He was transferred to the USS Cushing in October, 1942. The Cushing was sunk in the battle and James was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star for heroism in the action at Guadalcanal off Savo Island November, 1942. James received a battle field commission to Ensign in October, 1943.
A daughter, Miriam Maureen, was born to James and Miriam in November, 1943. It would be many months before he saw her for the first time.
Throughout 1943, James saw action in the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Aleutian Islands. James was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct with 3 stars, American Defense Ribbon American Theatre, Asiatic Pacific with 9 stars, and the World War II Victory Medal. Following World War II, James and Miriam moved to Maryland. In November, 1947, their son, James Charles Watkins, Jr. was born. James continued his naval career during these years, often at sea with the Sixth Fleet. While working in the Pentagon office of the Secretary of the Navy, he retired from the Navy on June 30, 1960 with a rank of Lt. ommander.
Upon retiring James joined the American Legion where he was the National Director of Public Relations. James worked closely with the National Adjutant and a number of National Commanders during his 17 years of service with the Legion.
Both Maureen and Jim, jr., married during these years; Maureen, in 1966 to David Warren Finch and Jim in 1969 to Ruth Jane Andreas. James and Miriam soon welcomed grandchildren: James Warren Finch, 1968, Jennifer Marie Finch and Justin James Watkins, 1971, Jessica Anne Finch, 1973, Joanna Miriam Finch and Alana Ruth Watkins, 1976 and Kelly Marie Watkins, 1979. After 35 years of marriage, Miriam passed away in 1974 following a long illness.
While on a cruise with friends, James met his second wife, Carolyn Marie Morris. Carolyn and James married in October, 1976. Carolyn had 4 children; 3 sons and a daughter from her previous marriage, so the family grew.
Upon his retirement from the American Legion on March 30, 1975 James and Carolyn moved to Venice, Florida and then to Sarasota. During the following years, James and Carolyn made many new friends and found time to travel extensively. Their retirement was definitely an active one. At the time of his death, James and Carolyn had been married almost 37 years.
James and Carolyn loved to visit with children and grandchildren from both sides of their large and busy family. As the grandchildren grew and married, spouses and great-grandchildren have been welcomed and surrounded with love. James, in turn was loved and admired by all. The “twinkle in his eye” and his “sailor” grin usually got him what he wanted. He was greatly loved and will be missed by all members of his family.