February 1951: Mr. X keeps readers guessing; Guardsmen leave for Korean War

Posted 2/1/19

The Walker County Times added an air of mystery to its reporting in 1951 with a series it called "Way Back When."The Times, which was published each Thursday, ran a photograph and bio of an …

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February 1951: Mr. X keeps readers guessing; Guardsmen leave for Korean War

Posted

The Walker County Times added an air of mystery to its reporting in 1951 with a series it called "Way Back When."

The Times, which was published each Thursday, ran a photograph and bio of an interesting citizen but declined to provide the name. The identify of each week's Mr. X or Mrs. X was revealed in the following week's paper. 

On Feb. 1, 1951, the mystery man was a 92-year-old from Nauvoo who helped build the first railroad that passed through his hometown.

Mr. X went to work in the mines once the railroad was finished. He quit the mines and became a farmer at age 60.

Mr. X recalled the days when the only way to get to Jasper was by walking or horseback.

"Yep, Jasper was mighty small when I was young. Had only a few stores, you know. Wasn't populated like it is today," he told the Times.

Nauvoo had one store in those days operated by Luther Launders. The first car in town was owned by Dr. Howard Sankey.

Mr. X's uncle and father had fought in the War between the States. The latter had been crippled as a result of one of his wounds.

In 1951, Mr. X and his wife had been married for 66 years and reported that they were still able to "get around."

Mr. X was identified as James Jefferson Harwill in the Feb. 8, 1951, issue of the Times.

The big news of the week in early February 1951 was that more than 130 men from Jasper's National Guard Unit, Battery D 464th Anti-Aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion, had left town to fight in the Korean War.

More than 1,000 people gave the Guard a rousing send-off from the Frisco railway station on Jan. 28. 

The Times reported that many of the men were World War II veterans and were married. Some were younger and had only been in the Guard for several months.

"Their faces were grim, determined and bore the attitude, 'I've got a job to do and with God's help I'll be back,'" according to the Times.

The group included 1st Lt. Virgil Ledbetter, Walker County High School's head baseball and basketball coach and assistant football coach.

Two local American Legion posts had given the Guardsmen a farewell party at the City Auditorium on Jan. 15.

Commander George Huddleston Jr. of Birmingham told the men that their service was necessary because something had gone haywire in the country between 1945 and 1950.

"He said the civilian soldiers won World War II and charged that if people in public office had done their jobs as did the civilian soldiers this nation wouldn't be engaged in another war today," the Times reported.

At least the United States was better prepared to meet the Communist threat than it had been when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Huddleston said.

The Times lamented the fact that the men who had won World War II had to be called to battle again in an editorial published Feb. 1.

"But like many great generals who hated war, these Guard members, now a part of Uncle Sam's Army, know that wars have to be fought to gain freedom. That has been the case in the world's great struggles," the Times editors wrote. "Perhaps some day countries on this universe will learn to live in harmony. Perhaps then wars will be a thing of the past. Meanwhile, the loved ones of these former Guardsmen will pray for the safe return of their men. The Walker County Times joins them in this hope."


Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.