Hannah Lang '18 February 10, 2020 2:33 PM updated: February 14, 2020 2:31 PM
Don’t let his age fool you – Col. Lee James '36, the oldest living Aggie, may have turned 106 in January, but his memories of Aggieland are as clear as ever. The Association recently sent two staff members to meet with James and hear his recollections.
James was born in 1914 in Guymon, Oklahoma. Thanks to his remarkable memory, he shared childhood stories like the day his family piled into a Model T to move to Texas, and details as specific as the name of his first grade teacher.
But James really came alive when he began sharing memories of his time at A&M.
The opportunity for James to attend A&M was provided with help from the Aggie legend Pinkie Downs, Class of 1906. While working at a ranch one summer in high school, James received a letter from his father with the news that his colleague Downs – the originator of the “gig ’em” gesture – had secured James a job at Sbisa, meaning room and board would be covered. With those costs taken care of, James was on his way to Aggieland.
In the fall of 1932, James stepped foot on campus for the first time. He joined H-Company, where his red hair soon earned him a nickname: “Fish Red.”
While working at Sbisa, Fish Red had the opportunity to connect with much of campus. He mentioned how he would keep an eye out for Ike Morris '33, a cadet three years ahead of him – and his predecessor for oldest living Aggie. Morris passed away in October at 109. “He had a great way of meeting people, making them feel at home,” James said of Morris.
James’ Aggie memories aren’t too different than what many students experience today: the struggle of Chemistry 101, the strong ties between Corps buddies, and the hope of catching someone’s eye on the dance floor. James’ favorite memory, however, is one that few Aggies get to experience. With a light in his eyes, he shared a story of his bond with the original First Lady of Aggieland.
“One night one fall, I heard this noise outside the door, I opened it up, and here’s Reveille! So I invited her to come on in,” he told us. Much to James’ honor, Reveille I jumped on to his bunk and made herself at home.
As the new mascot settled on his bed, James told her, “You may have half.” He was proud to share that she not only slept there all night, but chose to come back the next day.
James has been a proud member of the Century Club for over 30 years, and shared about the importance of paying it forward. Through his generous support of The Association, he’s been able to open doors for Aggies, just like Pinkie Downs did for him. He described the Aggie Network as a special group of people you can depend on.
When asked what he cherishes most from his time at A&M, his answer was simple: “Friendship first.” And with a laugh, he shared a close second: his memories with Reveille.
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