James Clifton King Jr., 96, passed away June 21, 2020, at his home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
James was born June 7, 1924 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the late James C. and Ollie B. King. He grew up in Red Fork and graduated from Daniel Webster High School in 1942. He received a scholarship to Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, but left after one semester to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He was trained as a gunner, stationed in England. After several nighttime reconnaissance flights, his B-17 crew went on a daylight bombing raid over Emden, Germany, December 11, 1943 and were shot down. The plane crashed near Harkstede, Holland and James and other crew members were captured by the Germans and transported to a prison camp, Stalag 17B, near Krems, Austria.
Along with all prisoners of war, he endured the ordeals of prison camp, which included starvation, interrogation, torture, solitary confinement, and disease. In the spring of 1945, the Germans began to empty the camps and march prisoners towards Berlin. After several days in a forest, being shelled by the Russian forces to the east and the American forces to the west, his group was discovered by American soldiers and James began his journey home to the United States. Once home and finished with medical and rehabilitation treatment, he was discharged from the Army on Friday, November 2, 1945. He received a Purple Heart. Under the GI bill he began attending classes at the University of Oklahoma the following Monday, November 5, 1945. He jumped fervently into his studies to become a lawyer, a decision he had made while a prisoner. He resolved to fight for justice and to help anyone he could to avoid the terrible cost of being imprisoned.
He transferred to the University of Tulsa and graduated on May 29, 1950. He passed the bar exam in March, 1950.
Upon graduation he was immediately offered several jobs with law firms but chose to go to work for the Prudential Company as an insurance investigator, a job he held until 1984. In addition, he worked with several local lawyers and maintained a busy private practice until he was 94 years old, from 1950 to 2018. A favorite joke of his was to comment that he understood retirement began after 65, but he thought that meant after 65 years of employment.
James married Carol Jean Leedy in December, 1949 and eventually moved his family to Broken Arrow in 1957. He was active in the community and helped establish Broken Arrow's Municipal Court. Uncompromising about enforcing the law equally among all people, he was willing to be unpopular in order to do that.
He was absolutely devoted to the practice of law and the principles of justice, mercy, fairness and kindness to all. He worked with clients that other lawyers would not. He did extensive pro-bono work, sometimes at the cost of his own financial advancement. He was known to never say no to anyone, no matter how difficult or seemingly small the need was.
Through the loving, patient, Christian example of his wife, Carol Jean, James believed and was baptized. He became active in the Church of Christ, serving in many congregations. He mentored teenagers at the Broken Arrow Church of Christ, helped run an extensive bus ministry at Garnett Church of Christ, and in later years was a devoted member of Contact Mission Church of Christ, a neighborhood-based outreach ministry on Tulsa's west side. He was unfailingly generous with his time and resources and always had a kind and encouraging word for others.
Devoted to his friends and family, late in life he cherished a renewal of friendship with two of his fellow Daniel Webster alums, Dr. Jack Hale and James Beall. In phone calls and visits with them he enjoyed reminiscing and contemplating how extraordinary life was from the perspective of very great age.
James participated in Holocaust remembrances held in Tulsa. He was deeply honored and moved to be named a witness to the Holocaust and he actively fought antisemitism. He was unafraid to confront other's prejudices, having witnessed firsthand the valor, courage and humanity of the Jewish people before, during and after the war.
He never liked being called a hero and explained that he was merely a grateful survivor of war, who felt an obligation to warn others of the folly and terrible cost of human conflict.
James was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 49 years, Carol Jean King and his daughter, Faith Diane King. He is survived by his second wife, Elizabeth B. King; son, Dr. James C. King III and his wife, Rebecca King; son, Charles C. King and his wife, Pamela King; grandchildren, Heather Jones (Steven), Laurel Whitworth (David), Timothy King, Alexander King and Tyler King; great grandchildren, Brandt, Abram, Clara, Cole, Darby, Hadley, Peter, Zoe and Bella, all of whom were the apple of his eye.
James will be laid to rest in a private service at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa. In lieu of flowers it would honor James's spirit to make donations to Contact Mission Church of Christ, 1529 W. 49th, Tulsa, 74107 or to Physician's Choice Hospice. Moore's Southlawn 918-663-2233. Share memories at www.moorefuneral.com