Teacher, father, author, Marine and a life well lived.
James Fletcher Baxter was born on January 25, 1925 in Santa Paula, California. He passed quietly and without pain the night of July 4th 2012 at the Texas State Veterans Home in Bonham, Texas. He was 87.
He was raised in Santa Monica, California by his mother Martha who he referred to as his greatest hero. His brothers Howard Baxter and Floyd Carter were the other great influences of his early life. Growing up in the heart of the Depression, he went to work at an early age as a paperboy for Santa Monica Outlook for many years and met many of his life-long friends. He attended Santa Monica High School where he was a cartoonist on the school paper and played football. He graduated from Los Angeles State in 1957 with Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education.
He served in the US Marine Corps during WWII from 1943 to 1946 including combat in Saipan and Okinawa with the First Marine Division. He was part of the S-2 Battalion Intelligence during post-war occupation in Nagasaki, Japan. While there, he helped oversee Japan’s first free election that included the right for women to vote.
After joining the active reserves in 1950, the Korean War broke out and he became a valued war veteran and assigned as a Rifle Squad Leader on the Korean War front. He was part of the Inchon landing and was later wounded in fierce combat in downtown Seoul. He received numerous honors for his military service including the Letter of Commendation and Valor Medals; and the Purple Heart. After the Korean War, he served as a member of Catalina Island Police Department in the city of Avalon.
He married Carol Beatrice Chalmers in 1951 and they had four children, Mark, Matthew, Karen and Kurt. He is survived by six grandchildren including Barrett, Matthew, Amanda, Connor, Micah and Kellie.
He taught 5th grade (which he always considered the best age to teach) for over 30 years, primarily at Melvin Avenue Elementary School in Reseda, CA. He was awarded Freedoms Foundation Classroom Teacher Medal in 1967 and the Life Member PTA Award (Public, Private, and Christian Schools). He was President of Professional Education of Los Angeles, California for three years where he fought for student’s rights against teacher unions.
In his later years, he enjoyed working as a Hollywood movie extra for many movies including his big moment in the movie, “Dave”, playing a presidential cabinet member. Throughout his life he has done lay missionary work in Central America, Russia, Israel and South Korea. He also taught Sunday school for 30 years and Adult School for 10 years. And he also taught Adult Observation Drawing and Oil Painting courses.
He was an accomplished writer of numerous published writings and articles and author of civic workbook, “The American Way of Life”. He was most passionate about his message and article: “The Human Paradigm: Earth’s Choicemaker”
His favorite books were the Holy Bible and non-fiction. His interests were in Jesus, Apologetics, Bible, History, Philosophy, Government, Civics, Creative Process, Art, Science, Character, Liberty, Freedom, Creation, Individual Value, America and Israel.
He loved music, favorites were Frank Sinatra, Kenny G, Jack Jones, and the BJ Thomas hit “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” was his most favorite song.
My Testimony by James Baxter
My brother and I joined the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school and went away to World War II. Our mother, a True Believer, wrapped us in Psalm 91 and claimed God’s promises over us. He went to the Paramarine/Raiders and the 5th MarDiv and I to the OSS and the 2nd MarDiv. We both went through combat and returned home safely after the war.
In 1950, with the outbreak of the Korean War, we were both recalled to active duty with the 1st Marine Division. Our mother again wrapped us in Psalm 91, gave each of us a small New Testament, and again sent us off to war with the Lord’s blessing.
As a 12-year-old, I had accepted the Lord but had never been well disciplined or obedient. I wanted to play patty-cake in the sand piles of the world. At 25, when I went to Korea, I started reading the little New Testament my mother had given me.
At the Inchon landing, and for the next two weeks of heavy combat as a rifle-squad leader, I read a few Bible verses every day. I loved my brother Marines who suffered and died alongside me. As the death and destruction grew more intense – and as I stood on the brink of eternity – I did not like what I saw.
As my outfit, Fox Company [F-2-1], attacked up the streets of Seoul, I was hit with a machine-gun bullet. I made it behind a burning police sub-station in the middle of the street. My corpsman, Chico, dressed my wounds and as sniper bullets crashed into the street beside us, he laid on top of me – covering me with his own body – and yelled in my ear, “You’ve had enough!” Other riflemen nailed the snipers and as Chico left me to help other Marines lying wounded in the street, he was hit by two bullets that blew the shinbone out of his leg. I never saw Chico again.
Several Marines threw a wooden door on the ground, rolled me on it and ran me down the street under heavy fire. It was a fearsome ride. I was placed on a DUKW, given a shot of morphine, and dreamed a beautiful restful sleep to Kimpo airfield and the flight to Japan.
At Yokosuka Naval Hospital for three months, I proclaimed my loyalty to Chico, my corpsman. One night, the Lord came to me. I saw the blood running down His forehead, into His eyes, and down over His cheeks. I looked into His blood-filled eyes. He spread out His bloody hands and said, “I did this for you.” I was willing to be loyal to Chico – but had not been willing to be loyal to the Lord.The Lord said, “Come and follow me. I will make you a man. Put away childish things.” I knew what he meant. I said, “Yes Sir.”
With the Lord as the Lord of my life, I re-joined my outfit and went back into front-line combat for another five months before returning home. My brother came home with frostbitten feet and I came home with a tender rear-end. Our mother cried with joy unspeakable. We were both baptized and have been His loyal Marines ever since. Everyday we say, “Yes Sir,” to the Lord Jesus – our CHAMPION and HERO. My Lord and my God.
Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is the most important virtue because it makes all other virtues possible.” As a senior in high school ready to join the Marine Corps, I thought his statement was good. The sequence sounded right. As a 26-year old veteran of front-line combat in two wars, I came to understand that Churchill was not quite right. Courage is not the prime virtue. It is faithfulness that is the prime virtue. It is being faithful that makes all other virtues possible, including courage. The Corps has it right: semper fidelis. Always Faithful
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.” I Corinthians 4:2