Sgt James Harold Beckham

B. July 3, 1918 D. January 18, 1944

The Beckham’s were a fighting family. Not among themselves but for this country.

There were four brothers. Our KIA hero James Harold, known as Harold, and his three brothers Carl, Alfred and Marvin. For a while all four brothers were enlisted and three were stationed overseas until Harold was killed. Under the rules of the day when four siblings were in service and one was killed then one survivor was sent stateside. Alfred, the oldest, came home when Harold was killed and ultimately, at the war’s end, so did Carl and Marvin.

Naturally Mrs. Beckham grieved terribly over the loss of her son Harold and for years kept the symbolic gold star in her window declaring for the world to see the sacrifice her family made.

But Mother Beckham was not the only one to grieve over Harold’s death. He left a young widow – Frances Grubbs Beckhand. There were no children and eventually Frances married again, moved away and carried on with her life.

The four brothers were born to Alonzo and Rosa Beckham of Orchard Hill. The Beckham’s at the time were farmers, though later Mr. Beckham worked in town at the Packard car dealership.

Harold went to 4th Ward Grammar School and Griffin High School where he was about as well rounded as a teenager could be. In addition to being a pretty good student he starred both on the basketball and football teams and in the senior class play. Theatrics must have come easy to Harold with his natural good looks and easy smile.

Pretty soon things were going well for Harold and Frances. He had finished high school, gotten married, was living on West Solomon Street and had a good job as sales clerk at the Big Star Grocery Store. Then World War II erupted and, like it did for many young men, turned Harold Beckham’s life upside down.

Originally in the Spalding Grays Unit, National Guard Harold was called up October 24th 1942. His new identity was private first class serial number 34449044 “for the duration of the war or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

He was initially posted to Ft McPherson, Atlanta, GA. It is unknown how Harold ultimately wound up assigned to the US Army Air Corps serving in the 9th Photo Reconnaissance Group, 11th combat Mapping Squadron at Fort Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma.

On a routine training mission in preparation for transfer to Europe to take part in the fighting there, Harold’s B42D Liberator crashed near the runway at Birmingham Army Air Base in Alabama.

All nine airmen on board, including 25 year old Harold Beckham, were killed on impact. In a flash, nine young lives lost, nine families changed forever.

Sergeant James Harold Beckham is buried in the Orchard Hill Cemetery on Camp Road, Orchard Hill, Georgia.