James Brunson, a longtime resident of Montclair, died on July 21. He was 101.
James was born in Edgefield, S.C., on May 10, 1919, and moved with his parents to Georgia prior to his first birthday. He was the second-youngest of nine children.The family lived in various locations in and around Augusta, Ga.
James served four years in World War II, stationed in the Philippines, and was one of only a few surviving American World War II veterans. After receiving an honorable discharge from the military, he returned to America, where he met and married his late wife, Flora Holmes. They were married for 55 years before her death and would have celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in June.
He was a longtime resident of Montclair and resided in the same home for over 62 years before selling it. He was the oldest member of Union Baptist Church in Montclair and was a member for 63 years.
James was employed by Ford Motor Co. and retired after 32 years of employment. He then went on to work for National Car Rental for 16 years.
He had an astute sense of racial awareness and was an ardent admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. King delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
During the ’60s civil rights era, James participated in numerous local marches and rallies. He was in church at Union Baptist along with his family on the historic day that Dr. King was the guest speaker. Later that day he listened to Dr. King deliver another awe-inspiring speech, at the Montclair High School auditorium. He also was in attendance when Mrs. Coretta Scott King was a guest at Union Baptist Church.
James was an avid Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson fan, and a loyal fan of the Mets.
He was well-known for being able to grow anything and maintain a plentiful garden. He transformed his talent to grow and harvest into sowing seeds of Christianity and humanity. He considered himself a soldier for the Lord and strived to be a good and faithful servant of Christ. His favorite words of encouragement were “take it to the Lord in prayer because God will make a way somehow.”
James and the late Flora Brunson had four children: James Brunson Jr. (Jimmy — deceased), Sharon Brunson Cockey, Dr. David Brunson (Emma), and David’s twin brother (who died at birth); two grandchildren, Kristin Brunson Maliwacki (Christopher) and James Cockey (Jamie); and two great-grandchildren, Lana and Jace Maliwacki. He is also survived by his brother, O’Neal Brunson, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Editor’s note: Montclair Local profiled Mr. Brunson in May on the occasion of his 101st birthday. You can read that story by clicking here.