By Amber Parrow, Director of Outreach.
James White is a WWII veteran, Purple Heart Recipient, Four time Winner of the President’s Hundred, NRA Instructor and former ORA President. On April 3, 2023, he received a commendation from Governor Stitt for his outstanding achievements to the Nation, State, and the ORA.
Yesterday I drove nearly two hours to have a cup of coffee with James. I would’ve driven five or more knowing what I know now of his service, achievements, and contributions. Even as I read through his memoir from the battle of Okinawa during WWII, I realize that throughout his life he found himself on the tail… that special place on the bell curve reserved for the rarities that are beyond normal occurrence. He describes one of the awards he brought home from Camp Perry as rarer than a Super Bowl Ring, a super athlete if you will in the world of competitive shooting. I’m here to tell you it is not the award that is the rarity, but rather the individual.
Always a Marine
At 16 years of age Jim graduated high school and tried his hand at college and decided it was not right for him at the time; so he joined the Marines. This was during the years of WWII and Jim was sent to war. Before he had turned 20, Jim finished his service, was a Marine veteran and purple heart recipient. When he returned home, he spoke to the college dean to see if he could resume his education, because he was now 19 and looking to establish his career. The dean’s response was, “Why? You dropped out your first year.” Explaining his service as a Marine was all it took to be reinstated. Jim finished his education and went to work for Haliburton as an engineer, settling down in Duncan with his wife and children.
In his war memoir, Jim explains that his service as a Marine was not typical. The Sixth Marine Division was a rifle unit, deployed to the front lines. They were the 1 in 20 in war that experienced hand-to-hand combat, that heard the snap of a bullet as it flew by, and subsequently are the ones who were the tip of the spear. Jim was wounded during his time in Okinawa, not once but three times. He said that you could be wounded a couple times and nothing happens, but it’s the third time when they give you a Purple Heart.
Jim didn’t start competitive shooting until he went to his first regional match in 1954. Since that time he made 17 trips to Camp Perry, competing as a civilian. He won the distinguished marksman award and made the President’s 100 four times. This designation is given to the top 100 shooters at the matches at Camp Perry, recognized by the President of the United States. This award is described as rarer than winning a Super Bowl Ring. Jim told me that there was a point in his years of competitive shooting that if he could do it, he would win it, and for someone who made the President’s 100, that is not an exaggerated statement.
Jim also had a significant part in our own Oklahoma Rifle Association history as a long-standing secretary and later president. He joined the ORA in 1959 and served as secretary from 1961-1970. In ’68, he told me that the NRA sent a letter to its members about joining the ORA. The result was Jim and his wife spending every evening for the next three years working for the ORA and processing applications. It grew from a few hundred to two thousand in that time. Naturally Jim needed a sabbatical from the ORA and competitive shooting, only to return in 1980. In 1988, the ORA needed rejuvenation and in his own words, “I was conned into being President.” In his time as President, he and a friend wanted to improve communications to the membership and that is when the Sharpshooter, the official newsletter of the ORA, was born.
NRA Rifle Instructor
Jim told me that he was a NRA Rifle Instructor, running two courses a year with 20 students in attendance and that he did that over the course of 25 years. After doing the math, that is at least 1000 individuals he trained on the range. He told me most of these students were guys, but a few women would also join in on the fun. One memorable set of students he mentioned were six nuns who came from various states in the upper Midwest. I think I was just a little disappointed when he told me they did not wear their habits, but rather an outfit more conducive to training. Habit or not, it is a reminder that the shooting sports are for anyone, including nuns!
Celebrating a Rarity
When I told Jim of the intentions of my visit, to feature him in the Sharpshooter, he was a little bit taken aback. He reached out to us so that his memories of WWII, the ORA, the President’s 100 would not be lost. He was not looking for accolades or recognition, a rare quality in and of itself. All he wanted was that the knowledge and history would not be forgotten. Part of our work at the ORA is to remember and preserve the legacy of our members and their contributions and achievements to the nation, state, and local communities. It is an honor to feature Jim’s story and recognize the rarity of a living WWII veteran, an individual who has been on the front lines and recipient of the Purple Heart, recognize the distinguished marksman and honor of achieving the President’s 100, and an individual who has given back to the firearm community through decades of service. However it is the character, grit, and integrity that fuels these sorts of accomplishments and service, and that is the rare gift we possess with our oldest ORA member, James White.
Please see our other blog post for one of many of James’ written works that have been published in the Sharpshooter and other publications.
Veteran of the Week
On behalf of his father, Douglas White accepted the special commendation for James White, veteran of the week at the state capital during the April 3rd legislative session. When we shared James’ story with our connections at the capitol, there was much enthusiasm to put together this special honor. All of us at the ORA are thrilled to have one of our past presidents and current members duly recognized in this way.
James, thank you for your service to our country, the ORA, the NRA, and to countless individuals!