I was born August 21, 1906, to William McNeil and Mollie Spivey James at Trio in Williamsburg County. My father was employed there as a saw filer and crew foreman with a lumber company. In 1907 we moved to the Mill Branch community six miles east of Tabor City (then known as Mt. Tabor) in Columbus County, NC. My mother had been reared in that community and my father purchased his 100 acres of land for two dollars per acre.
My father worked as a saw filer and crew foreman with the Whiteville Lumber Company and walked twelve miles to work each morning and twelve miles back at night. My education began October 1, 1912 at Mill Branch Elementary School, which I attended until January 1, 1916. The school had one teacher and I completed what was considered the seventh grade.
My education ended when my father sold the Columbus County estate and moved our family to the place where he was born and reared in the Simpson Creek Township. This community was later to be known as Mt. Vernon, the name given to the local church and school. This farm had been bought by my grandfather, Joseph T. James, in the eighteen hundreds for one dollar per acre. I could not go to high school because I was the oldest boy in the family and had to plow a forty-five acre farm with a mule.
I was married at nineteen on January 6, 1926 to Cora Thelma Todd, daughter of Harmon Russell and Julia Gause Todd. We had two children, Norman Alton, born February 6, 1928, and Veanna, born November 7, 1931. We lived on a farm made up of a small tract given me from my father's farm and a small tract adjoining it which I bought. This farm is still my home. My wife died February 11, 1982, and I was remarried August 20, 1982 to Fannie Bruce Amette Fowler.
Although I was always a farmer, I did other work when possible to be financially able to educate my children. My earlier work was as a laborer in paving Highway No. 9 between Loris and Ocean Drive Beach, and as a bridge supervisor (in making repairs and reconstruction) under Henry B. Hardwick, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.
I was elected a member of the Board of Trustees of Mt. Vernon Elementary School, District 101, in 1928 when I was 21 years old. I resigned from that position after twenty years of service. I was elected Executive Committeeman for Mt. Vernon Voting Precinct in 1938 and served in that capacity for 36 years. I was appointed a member of the Horry County Board of Commissioners by the late Senator Paul Quattlebaum July 1, 1941, and served a two year term ending July 1, 1943. 1 served as a civilian air warden during World War II. I was appointed a notary public in 1938 and still serve in that capacity.
I was appointed a deputy sheriff of Horry County by the late Charles Ernest Sasser on October 1, 1944, and served in that capacity for eight years, three months and five days, at which time Sheriff Sasser's term expired. In 1958 I ran for Magistrate of District Five in Horry County and was elected from a slate of eight candidates, all of whom were fine men. I was elected and reelected seven times and served a total of eighteen years in that office. My interest in the Magistrate's office grew out of my father having held that position for several years.
During my service as a deputy sheriff, I was on call twenty-four hours a day and provided my own automobile for a salary of $1800.00 per year. At that time there were only three paved roads in Horry County, totalling about 200 miles. I had to get a new car about every twelve to eighteen months.
During my many years of service as deputy sheriff and as magistrate, I realized that the respect and confidence of the law-abiding citizen and the good will of the violator were the best insurance I could have. My policy was always 'Justice to all, and mercy to those who are due mercy."
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