Whitaker, James Edwin JAMES EDWIN WHITAKER 12/5/22 – 10/14/05 Last Flight of the Navigator By Richard Whitaker Major James Edwin Whitaker, 82, USAF (ret), died peacefully in his home surrounded by his children and loved ones on October 14th, 2005. Born on December 5th, 1922, in LaGrange, GA, his family moved to Goldsboro, NC when he was still a young lad. After seeing several local air shows, he became interested in aviation and joined the Young Aviators Club. When at Goldsboro High School, he was a member of the cheer squad and track team (javelin). He was selected as a cadet to The Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, SC, where he played football and was on the boxing team. His class, the class of 1944, never graduated – the only such class in Citadel history. He received his commission as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and flew with the 307th bombing wing while stationed in England. After he’d flown several missions in 1945, WWII came to an end. Upon arriving in the states, he was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH where he met (on a blind date), fell in love, and eventually married Virginia Howe on November 27th, 1948. Duty assignments changed like the wind and he was moved around the country from MacDill AFB, Tampa, FL (earning his BS in Math from Florida Southern College- 1950), to Lake Charles, LA (1952), to Tulsa, OK (1956), back to Wright-Patterson (1957), then onto Clark AFB in Manila, Philippines (1958-59), Winston-Salem, NC (1960), finally McCoy AFB Orlando (1961). He was with the 966 Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron and allegedly flew some reconnaissance over Cuba during the Bay of Pigs incident. On October 31, 1963, he officially retired from the Air Force and began his civilian career with NASA rubbing shoulders with astronauts in the Mercury space program. In 1966, he entered civil service with the DOD United States Navy in procurement contracting as a contract negotiator. He was one of the principal negotiators for the Crawler (the massive transport vehicle that moved the Saturn V rocket during the Apollo space program and now the space shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad). He retired in 1988 after a distinguished 45-year career of government service. He was a member of the Scottish Rites (32nd degree), the NCMA (National Contract Managers Association), and the Citadel Alumni Association. He loved to golf with his buddies at the NTC golf course, play gin rummy, and reminisce. He’ll be remembered for his candor, his character, and his courage. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he did as he was commanded; he was a workman approved of God. We can be assured he heard these words from his commanding officer: Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! Major Whitaker was predeceased by his wife, Virginia, in 2003 and is survived by his seven children, James M., Katherine A., Terrill H., Richard K., Virginia I., Beverly J., and David A. Whitaker, twelve grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. A military honors funeral will be held at Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, 994 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, on Saturday, October 22nd at 10AM. Interment will be at Glen Haven Memorial Cemetery in Winter Park, FL afterwards. Viewing will be at Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Altamonte Springs, Friday, Oct. 21st between 5-8PM.
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