James Herman Barrett, Jr.,
Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force (Retired) 8/9/19-7/29/94
James H. Barrett was born August 9, 1919 to Mabel and James Barrett in Annapolis, Maryland, where he grew up along with his younger brother, Reginald.
Jim obtained his pilot’s license when he was just 15 years old. After graduating high school, he attended St. Johns College and the University of Maryland. Shortly after the U.S. entered the war effort in 1941, he was commissioned in the Army Air Corps and immediately began service as a Navigator. During this period of time, he also married Dorothy McDonald, with whom he had two children, Dandy and Bruce.
Jim had a long and distinguished military career spanning over the course of three U.S. wars-World War 2, The Korean War and the Vietnam War. He also served as a military attaché to the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Arab-Israeli Conflict in 1967. Before he retired as Lt. Colonel in 1969, Jim had served as a navigator, a Professor of Air Science, Commander of the U.S. Force Language School and as a military intelligence officer. He earned numerous awards for his military service, and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in World War 2.
After retiring from the Air Force, Jim enrolled in Southwest Texas State University to obtain a teaching certificate. He then taught middle school math and science for 11 years, and then devoted his time to social involvement.
Several years after the death of his wife, Dorothy, Jim met June at a meeting of the Retired Officers Association in Annapolis, Maryland. Their subsequent courtship and marriage in 1990 was a source of great joy and celebration for the entire family.
In June of 1992, Jim and June moved to Pensacola into a lovely custom-designed home expecting to spend many years enjoying their golden years together in this beautiful location. Jim was an active vibrant man. He was in excellent health, having passed the physical and re-certification exams for his private pilot’s license, and flew a Cessna 152 around Annapolis and Pensacola. Shortly after their relocation, they became members of the Pensacola Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Jim became very active in many church, neighborhood and community activities and groups dealing with social concerns. He was a regular supporting member of the Pensacola Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, serving on the Ministerial Committee. He also worked with Zero-Population Growth, manning ZPG’s booths at fairs, and with Escambia AIDS Services and Education (EASE). He was a lifetime member of the Pensacola Retired Officers Association and served on the Scholarship Committee. He was active in Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and served on the board of the local gay and lesbian publication, Christopher Street South. He was a friend and advocate of lesbian and gay rights and was considered to be extended family by many in the community.
He also organized and served as chairman of his Neighborhood Watch program, and personally welcomed all new residents to his neighborhood of 27 homes. He was also a member and supporter of the National Organization for Women and served as a volunteer clinic escort for about 18 months at the Ninth Avenue Ladies Center abortion clinic, which was at the center of the Christmas abortion bombings in 1984.
On Friday morning, July 29, 1994, Jim drove into the Ladies Center with Dr. John Bayard Britton by his side in the passenger seat and his wife, June, in the back jump seat. Paul Hill, a regular protester, was already there. Jim drove in and parked. As he stepped out of the truck, Paul Hill opened fire with a shotgun. Jim and Dr. Britton were killed instantly and June was wounded and left for dead.
Jim said he saw the escorting as an extension of his military service. “My dad was a military man, and there’s a stereotype of the military man, that he’s all about war,” his daughter, Dandy Barrett Witty, said. “But dad taught me from the time I could understand that his primary mission was to keep the peace. That’s what his feeling was the day he died.” Jim himself was very direct about why he chose to serve as an escort. “I’ve spent my life doing my best for the security of my country and the people who live in it,” he had told a Pensacola area newspaper. “Why should I stop now?”
Graveside services, with military honors, were held Monday, August 8th, 1994 in Arlington National Cemetery, with Rev. Roderick Brown, Unitarian Universalist minister from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, formerly of Pensacola, giving the eulogy.
Survivors included his wife, June G. Barrett, who died in 2011; his son, Bruce M. Barrett: daughter, Dandy Barrett Witty: step-daughter, Dr. Mary Holly Allison, Silver Spring, Maryland; brother, Reginald A. Barrett; Annapolis, Maryland; grandsons, Sean M. Witty and Jason M. Witty.