James Clyde Spears was born on December 14, 1943 in Dallas, Texas. His Mother, Irma Y. Spears, moved to Riverview, Alabama in 1948 which was home for James Clyde until his death on September 23, 2018. During a Boy Scout trip to Philmont in 1958 James Clyde visited an Air Force base, talked with pilots, looked at airplanes, and decided he wanted to learn to fly. After graduating from Valley High School in 1961, he entered Auburn University commuting from Riverview where he lived with his Mother while setting speed records in his Impala on Interstate 85. Due to his increasing desire to fly, James Clyde left Auburn in 1964, enlisted in the U.S. Army, endured basic training at Fort Jackson followed by helicopter flight training at Fort Wolters and Fort Rucker. James Clyde graduated in November 1965 as a Warrant Officer and helicopter pilot in the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, and 25th Infantry Division. After advanced flight training at Fort Benning in March 1966 he was ordered to Vung Tau Air Base in South Vietnam flying a Huey UH1C gun ship providing air support for ground troops. Due to his skill as a pilot James Clyde was chosen to fly the Brigade Commander to inspect various installations throughout Vietnam. He left Vietnam in March 1967 returning to Fort Rucker as a flight instructor. After completing military service, James Clyde went to Alaska flying helicopters on the North Slope, and did 3 tours fighting forest fires dropping water and flame retardant from his helicopter and served with the Alaska National Guard.
He then returned to Riverview, re-entered Auburn completing requirements and graduating. He completed fixed wing training in Pensacola seeking employment as an airline pilot since he had no desire to continue flying helicopters. Since airline pilot jobs were scarce, James Clyde joined the FAA in 1973 as an Approach and Air Traffic Controller trainee in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. During this time, he continued to pursue his desire to become an airline pilot. In February 1980, ASA bought a second plane and Captain Spears became the pilot initially flying from Columbus and Macon to Atlanta while still living in Riverview. As ASA grew, Captain Spears flew to cities all over the country. He flew twin and four engine prop planes and eventually his favorite plane a 70 passenger Canadian Regional CRT 70 twin engine jet. He often said he could not believe they were paying him for doing something he loved. The FAA required mandatory retirement for pilots at age 60 so he retired from flying February 2004. He remained in Riverview caring for his Mother whose health continued to decline until her death at age 102 in 2012. James Clyde took her on many "road trips" all over the country until she became totally disabled. In March 2013 he fulfilled another desire by completing 18 wheeler training at Southern Union and driving big rigs on "short trips" to Dallas and Los Angeles.
In December 2013, James Clyde, who had been healthy all his life, noticed shortness of breath with exertion. Eventually diagnosed with advanced incurable Pulmonary Fibrosis, the disease progressed, symptoms and disability worsened and our friend died in the home he loved.
Visitation will be at Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley, Alabama on Tuesday September 25, 2018 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. EST. A graveside service at Johnson Memorial Gardens will be Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 2:00 PM EST with Reverend Rusty Tate officiating.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Lung Association.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home of Valley, AL Directing