Jim White ’ 71 came by his passion for history naturally. His people lived on Portsmouth Island, the wildest and most remote outpost within North Carolina’s borders, from 1822 until 1933.
Some of them were blockade runners during the Civil War.
White’s high school students over on the mainland in Pamlico
County — well, you know how at that age history can seem a little
It was the early 1990s, and “I got tired of my students copying each
other’s papers,” he said. “I said, ‘I’ll come up with something they
can’t copy.’ ”
He began dispatching his students to interview war veterans. They
weren’t that hard to find in retiree-rich Pamlico and Craven counties.
“The kids cried because they didn’t want to do it. They hated it.
When they got through doing it and turned their papers in, I said,
‘Now what did you think about the project?’ They said, ‘It was the
best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Do it again.’ ”
William Jones volunteered and enlisted
before the United States entered World
War II. He was 16. He found himself at
Pearl Harbor — he served in one of the
few roles available to African-Americans,
as a steward — on Dec. 7, 1941.
“I had been in town that night and … I
came back at about 1 o’clock and at about 7
that morning the bombs and the machine guns
started shooting — where we were standing
there.” He and his roommates were in the barracks. One of them had just stood up from his
bunk. “Machine guns came down where he’d
been there and just cut that bed right apart.”
Jones flew out of the room and went to
an airplane hangar, which was considered
one of the safer places to be.
Before the war ended he had risen to
captain steward, served on three ships and
was chief steward to Adm. Chester Nimitz,
who directed the major Pacific naval battles
of the war.
Jim White ’ 71 at home in New Bern with some of his large collection of war artifacts and memorabilia.