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Ashe County Veterans History Project: J.B. Hamm


J.B. Hamm's Photos

J.B. Hamm's Story

J.B. was born on a farm in what is called Windfall Country to Troy and Luna Ham. As a young boy he wanted to do and be many things in life. He worked on his dad’s farm, raising and selling green beans and tobacco to buy school clothing and a little spending money. His chore after school was chopping stove wood and carrying it in the house for his mom to cook with.

As soon as his chore was finished he would grab a shotgun. Luna would ask, “Where are you going?” J.B. would say, “Going squirrel hunting.” Once in awhile, he would kill one for his mom to make squirrel gravy. He didn’t have many hobbies except hunting and throwing a baseball against the barn pretending that he was Bob Feller. He always struck out the batter. He even struck out the famous retired Babe. Another of his hobbies was playing his Roy Rogers guitar and his favorite tune was a Carter family tune, Wildwood Flower, that became the South’s national anthem. He also did a lot of pencil drawings during class in high school.

When J.B. was a senior he visited colleges and his dad took him to Wake Forest to try and get him into architectural school. J.B. did house floor-plan drawings for his dad who was a house builder at that time. Troy, his dad, thought that J.B. had enough talent to be an architect. This plan didn’t work out, so J.B. decided to enroll in business school instead. His dad started working at the Ore Knob Mines as an electrician. Lo and behold, his dad got laid off or fired because he was a strong union man. The money dried up and so did school.

J.B. went to every business in Winston-Salem to try and get a part-time job. There was none to be had. After pondering his future, J.B. walked by the Air Force recruiting station, while job hunting. He enlisted in the USAF. This didn’t go very well with his future bride, Beryl. Neither did it please his mom and dad. J.B. figured that he would be drafted anyway, and he preferred the Air Force.

After training at Lackland AFB he and his sweetheart, Beryl, were married before he was sent to Massachusetts, to L.G. Hanscom Field which was an ARDC base, (Air Research and Development Command Base). The military were there to protect and assist MIT and Cambridge Research Center.

During his time at Hanscom Field, J.B. did different jobs and helped supply the bunkers and fallout shelter for the scientist and engineers. Then his superiors found out that he had some business schooling and could half-way type, so he wound up with an office job in accounting.

J.B. was in the Air Force during the Cuban Crisis and Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Berlin Crisis, and the first part of the Vietnam War. He didn’t have to fight in any of them. His last rank was A2C equal to today’s A1C. After his first enlistment term, his commanders tried day-after-day to get him to reenlist.  Because he and his wife, Beryl, had started a family, he decided to leave the Air Force when his four years was up.

J.B., Beryl and Robin moved to Delaware where he worked in accounting for four years before moving back to "God’s Country," Ashe County. He worked awhile at Sprague Electric and then got a job with Vannoy Construction as the bookkeeper. He attended Wilkes Community College at night and studied Architecture and Engineering on his own, while pricing and bidding on projects for Vannoy Construction. During this time J.B. and Beryl raised three children: Robin, Tim and Kim.

Then one day he was called into the ministry and served four different churches as a bi-vocational pastor. He currently is an assistant pastor at Big Springs Baptist Church. After semi-retiring from Vannoy Construction, the Lord helped him to fulfill dreams that he'd had since he was a boy. One was to be an artist and another was to be a writer.  When he was a senior in high school he even said that he wanted to be a pastor.

J.B. did not feel he was a hero by any means. To him, those who had to fight and those who lost their lives were his heroes. The last verse in his poem "A Tribute to the American Veterans" sums up his military career:

There were soldiers, sailors, airman, Coast Guard and Marines,

That never fought on foreign soil, in the air or on the sea.

If need be they would have fought in their day.

One thing is for sure, we were all proud to serve in the mighty military of the good old USA.

After leaving the USAF, he was a Cold War Veteran and a Vietnam Era Veteran.  JB enjoys painting and has written several books about the history of his family and growing up in Ashe County.

J.B., about half the time called Jay, has been an American Legion member for 18 years. His motto is the golden rule from the Bible: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”