July. 1983 – Berrien County, Georgia. I am 9 years old; 1 year older than my first born son, Jason W. Swindle Jr. (Jake). Ronald Wilson Reagan is serving his first term in the White House. This month I will begin to understand the rise of the 3rd German Reich and the purified evil of Communism.
I am at the home of James Aaron Swindle, my grandfather, on his farm in South Georgia. This month and many months after, I will enjoy spending time with this great man.
James Swindle (Papa James) began his life as a tough farm boy in South Georgia. Like other farm boys of his generation, he excelled in tinkering with farm equipment and learned how very large machines operated.
As he grew older, this experience on the farm working on tractors, watching small crop dusters, and developing a strong sense of national pride would be a great benefit to him.
After hostilities in Europe erupted, Papa James joined the Army Air Corps (later known as the United States Air Force) as a pilot.
He would become the leader of a bomber squadron that flew over 100 sorties across occupied Europe including France, the Ardennes in Belgium, and straight into the heart of the Reich, Berlin, Germany. His generals had one very important black and white rule. On missions into Germany, do not come back with any bombs left in the airplane. Many of his men never came back from those bombing missions. It is only by the grace of God that Papa James survived all of those journeys.
Fast forward to 1983. My father would often allow me to stay with my grandparents in Berrien County during the summers while he was travelling his sales territory for Warren Sewell Clothing Company. During those times, I would follow Papa James around as he worked on his farm, travelled to Ray City for farm supplies or some RC cola, and fished in the ponds on their property.
Like Jake, I had no shortage of questions about life. I laugh when I think back and realize how patient Papa James was with my constant questioning.
However those times on the farm began to form my world view and political outlook. Papa James was a “Reagan Democrat.” He would often tell me that “I am still a Democrat. I just haven’t voted for a Democrat in over 40 years.”
His influence on me promoted my beliefs in Goldwater conservatism, self-sufficiency, military preparedness, and the importance of protecting our precious right to own firearms.
Papa James was also a devout Christian. He gave me the type of Christian education that was fun and interesting to a young boy. He showed me how our Creator showed Himself to us in nature, human interaction, and in times of adversity. My first memory of sensing the presence of God was in Berrien County.
Papa James passed away in 1993. However, his influence and memory lives on strongly today. He certainly is a part of me. In fact, when I am facing times of adversity, tough decisions, or preparing for difficult legal cases, I pray that God will give me the strength to do His will. I also ask God to allow Papa James to steer me in the right direction just like he steered those bomber squadrons during World War II. My father and I call it having a “wing man.”
I also have a unique piece of his memory in my home. When we built an office upstairs, I collected a number of tobacco sticks to use as the siding in the room. These sticks came from Papa James’ father’s old tobacco warehouse in Berrien County. They were used to dry the tobacco leaves before they were ready to be sold. The tobacco sticks, which are stained brown from the leaves, surround me when I am working at home.
I am grateful to have experienced the time that God gave me with James Aaron Swindle. I am also grateful that I have the opportunity to write this column on Father’s Day weekend. Praise your own fathers, father figures, and grandfathers. They are the men who have and continue to forge the direction of our lives.