Barry Loudermilk took to the floor of Congress July 25 to honor Jim Murphy for his service during World War II.
The District 11 U.S. representative and Republican from Cassville, who represents part of Buckhead, told a remarkable and inspiring story, one few of his neighbors knew. They all know Murphy, though.
He is the mayor of the Paces Forest neighborhood in Buckhead.
It’s an honorary title, bestowed affectionately by his neighbors. He serves as welcome committee, cheerleader and advocate for the 40 or so homes on the quiet cul de sac off West Paces Ferry Road. He is an eternal optimist who doesn’t seem to mind pushing boulders up hills, even when he appears to be the only one beneath it.
He’s 94 and has lived in his home for 50 years. He and his wife Margaret Ann lived around the corner on Wood Valley for 10 years prior. She died in 2010. He is active; his signature white Cadillac is a fixture at the West Paces Ferry shopping center on the corner of Northside Parkway. He waves “hello” to anyone and everyone.
Paces Forest is in the West Paces Neighborhood Association, but it is a neighborhood unto itself — children coming and going, neighbors getting together frequently and watching over one another’s homes. It has just two streets — Paces Forest Road and Paces Forest Drive — and one way in or out on West Paces.
Murphy helped make Paces Forest what it is. The neighborhood is connected to the shopping center — the loading docks of that Publix are literally across an empty lot.
For years, that was a problem. Derelicts and criminals could access the street and make a quick exit without having to deal with West Paces Ferry.
Murphy fought the shopping center, but eventually partnered with another neighbor built a fence across the back of its property. The barrier made a world of difference to the quality of life. He can tell you some hair-raising stories from before that fence was built. Today, the most hair-raising stories are about neighbors not picking up after their dogs.
That is one example of the fight in Murphy, a quiet man committed to the greater good.
Three weeks ago, from the well of Congress, Loudermilk delivered a fuller picture of an American hero.
It starts with Murphy and many of his Georgia Tech classmates being called by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to active duty in March 1943. Murphy was 18 years old. Blind in his left eye, he was prohibited him from serving in the Army. Murphy figured out a way to pass the eye exam without the doctor noticing.
He served in the 103rd Infantry as a forward radio operator and as a jeep driver when his battery was called forward. One of his team members was killed early in the fighting. Murphy and his other forward operator had to carry on a man down. For this, the United States awarded them the Bronze Star.
Later in the Battle of the Bulge, Murphy was recovering from emergency surgery when, against doctors’ orders, he left the hospital and hitched a ride to the front. According to Loudermilk, his company was amazed to see him.
The U.S. nominated Murphy for the Silver Star for this, but he declined the honor because he said the honor should go to his battery, and not to him individually.
When Germany surrendered, Murphy and his fellow soldiers were sent to the Pacific to continue fighting, but the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as he was en route, ending the war.
Of his service, Murphy said, “I didn’t have to go to the war, but I believed it was my duty and I wanted to go.”
Murphy would say he was one of many, just doing his job.
Now he is one of a few that remain, but he still lives a life of service above self. When neighbors started congratulating him on an email chain, he responded with the following, which defines Jim Murphy better than any words I can type:
“That was 75 years ago, a long time. Now I am praying for the good old USA to truly be One Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All. And so I gratefully hand the torch to you and our younger generations to keep it so!”