James H Beckham Sr.

January 11, 1921August 4, 2013

James Hayward “Jim” Beckham Sr.

Jim Beckham was born in Birmingham, AL, on January 11, 1921, to Richard Olen and Maude Knight Beckham. He was a devoted husband, beloved father, papa, and uncle, an enthusiastic and curious traveler, a graceful tenor, a reticent WWII pilot, and a wonderful example. On August 4, 2013, at age 92, he at last, in the words of the aviator’s poem, “slipped the surly bonds of Earth…and touched the face of God.”

Jim was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Josephine Milton Beckham, and his brother, Richard Beckham. He is survived by: his children Suzanne B. Smith (Collier) of Hurtsboro, AL, James H. Beckham Jr. (Cheryl), and Joellyn M. Beckham (Trinket Shaw); grandchildren Reid Smith (Joanna) of Maylene, Marietta O’Neill (Brian) of Columbus, GA, Holly Beckham, and James H. “Trey” Beckham III; three great-grandchildren; special niece and nephew Eberle Knight of Houston, TX, and Herbert Baker of Seattle, WA; and cherished friend Elaine Callahan of Bessemer.

Upon graduation from Phillips High School, Jim attended Birmingham Southern College, where he was a member of the concert choir. He left college to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, becoming a 1st Lieutenant and B-24 bomber pilot in the 8th Air Force. During WWII, he flew 36 missions, including two on D-Day. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and four Bronze Stars.

After the war, he came home to wed his college sweetheart, Jo. They lived in Talladega before finally settling in Jo’s hometown of Bessemer, where they reared their family.

Jim had a 44-year career with Alabama Power Company, where he began as assistant to President Walter Bouldin, later managed the communications and training department and ultimately retired as educational and institutional affairs director. He was past chairman of the Alabama Advisory Council on Vocational Education and past president of the Bessemer Area Chamber of Commerce. He served on numerous professional and civic boards, including the Alumni Advisory Board of the Auburn University School of Business, the Birmingham Area Private Industry Council, and the Girls Club of Bessemer.

Jim was a devoted member of Bessemer First United Methodist Church, serving both on the board of stewards and as a member of and frequent soloist in the chancel choir. After moving to a retirement community in Vestavia, Jim joined Mountain Chapel United Methodist Church where he found the open arms of a new church family—and the open hearts of those in the choir loft, a true gift that allowed him to continue being a part of the choral music he so loved.

The family wishes to thank the many gentle souls of New Beacon Hospice and of Greenbriar at the Altamont who have traded wise cracks with him and cared beautifully for him for the last several years, especially Carolyn “Sarge” Brown, Ruby Cooper, Roda Kilgore, Rowena Crump, and Susan Henderson.

Visitation at Ridout’s Valley Chapel (Homewood) on Wednesday, August 7th at 5-7 pm. Graveside services at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Bessemer on Thursday, August 8th at 9:00 am, followed by a memorial service at 11:00 am at Mountain Chapel United Methodist Church.


  • Graveside Service Thursday, August 8, 2013
  • Visitation Wednesday, August 7, 2013
  • Memorial Service Thursday, August 8, 2013

James H Beckham Sr.

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted

Barry Cates

August 15, 2013

Jim and Family, Barry and I send our condolences. We will keep you in our prayers during this time.
Barry and Joanne Cates

August 11, 2013

To the family of Mr. Beckham. I have just read about Mr. Beckham and his service to our country. I extend my gratitude to him and his wife as part of the great generation that put their lives at risk to keep us free. We will forever be in their debt. God Bless Tim Walker, USAF/USA

August 9, 2013

Dear Beckham Family,

I have MY MEMORIES of Mr. Jim Beckham.... His family and mine have been close for so many years.

I miss being in the choir at First Methodist in Bessemer singing tenor with him..

I LOVED him, and I LOVE his family


Bruce Lyon Holt

Amy Knight

August 8, 2013

To all my family gathered today, I wish I could be there right now. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you all, and we will meet again soon.

Lisa Lindley

August 8, 2013

This is a beautiful obituary and a real tribute to his life. He was a true gentleman. He lived his life with honor and with humor, such a great combination. He and your mother were so special to my family. He and Daddy can now sing together again. That must be an amazing choir!

Melody Izard

August 7, 2013

Joellyn, I am so sorry to hear about your father - but even more sorry that I have to get to know him through his obituary. I can see a solid line leading from some of your most endearing traits right up to Mr. James H. Beckham Sr. I know a piece of your heart is gone. I hope time and friends can help your ache. I'd love to have a day just hearing stories so I can pretend I knew him. Love you.

Nancy Dorman-Hickson

August 7, 2013

Joellyn, I am so very sorry for your loss. My own father died in October so I know words are not particularly helpful at this point. Nonetheless, I hope it helps to know that I'm thinking about you and praying for you and your family. May time bring healing and joyful memories. Nancy Dorman-Hickson

August 7, 2013

Joellyn, please accept my sincere sympathy. I am so sorry for your loss. Donna Belter

Bill Wesson

August 6, 2013

Jim, very sorry for the loss of your father.

Jane Howard

August 6, 2013

What a beautiful tribute for such a wonderful, sweet man!I am so sorry, but now maybe he and your precious Mom can catch up on some Valentine parties! The memories I have of 1st United Choir---I am so proud to have known "The Beckham" Family-All my prayers and thoughts-