Family and friends will gather from 10 to 11 am Tuesday, September 12, in the Chapel at Robertson Mueller Harper where a Celebration of His Life will begin at 11 am. Full Military Honors for Col. Downs will be given at 1 pm Tuesday at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
COLONEL JAMES JOSEPH DOWNS, USAF, RET.
Col. Jim Downs, USAF (Ret), 86, loving husband, proud patriot and avid sportsman, passed away on August 23, 2023 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jim was born on May 23, 1937 in San Antonio, Texas where his father, an officer in the United States Army, was stationed. His mother, a San Antonio native, descended from Texas pioneers. While his father was away during World War II, Jim and his mother lived with her parents. He spent his early childhood with his grandfather hunting and fishing in the area around Bulverde, Texas. The love of hunting and fishing remained with him throughout his life. Following the war, Jim lived in numerous states and foreign countries as his father was transferred with the Army.
He graduated from high school in San Antonio and was slated to attend the United States Military Academy West Point, but chose to pursue a career in the United States Air Force. he was a star athlete in high school and went on to play football at Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University, in San Marcos. Jim was in ROTC and graduated in 1962 as the Cadet Corps Commander. Because of his scholastic achievements, he earned a regular commission in the Air Force.
Jim went to pilot training in Big Springs, Texas, and upon receiving his wings, was transferred to Hill Air Force Base in Utah. From Hill, he flew missions in and out of Viet Nam. He was then assigned as one of the first pilots in the Special Operations Group and went to Florida for training. He then went to Viet Nam as part of the 19th Special Operations Squadron and flew missions in support of the Special Forces.
While on this tour, his squadron took more enemy hits than any other squadron in Viet Nam. Jim flew a plane called Patches that received its name because of all of the repairs it received due to damage from enemy fire. On one mission Jim returned with 17 entry holes. Patches is now in the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
He was then transferred back to Hill and then to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. He went to the Air Command and Staff College, then back to Hill and then to Air War College.
Jim then volunteered for his third tour in Viet Nam where he flew fighter jets. He was then transferred to First Flight Detachment and flew missions in support of Special Operations troops.
After this tour he went to Williams Air Force Base in Arizona as an instructor pilot. He was the first Viet Nam veteran to train pilots at Williams. He then went to Japan as Director of Logistics and then to Hawaii where he served on the (J4) staff for the Director, Strategic Planning and Policy at CINCPAC. He retired from military service with the rank of Colonel while in Hawaii.
Jim earned two master’s degrees while in the service. He was highly decorated and the Distinguished Flying Cross and Meritorious Service Medal where among his many medals. He wore Command Pilot wings and had over 12,500 hours in Air Force aircraft.
Upon retirement, he was recruited to work for Lockheed Martin. He agreed to a commitment of two to three years but retired twenty-two years later. He then worked as a consultant for three years before his final retirement.
An avid sportsman, Jim spent many happy hours on the Ridglea Country Club golf course, at his hunting lease in San Saba County, and with his favorite fishing guide, Donald Cranor, fishing for big brown trout on the White River in Arkansas.
He is survived by the love of his life, Sharon, who was his constant companion as his health declined; his daughters, Elaine Fox and Karen Shaw and her husband Kevin; step-children, Megan Treppa and Trey Plankey; nine grandchildren; 12 great grandchildren; and his dog, Lady Bug, also survives him.