A short time before the beginning of World War I, Jim Downing was born in a small town in Missouri where his father owned a country store. Some of his earliest memories came as he sat with and on the laps of seven men on “loafer’s benches” around a huge wood stove in the store that his parents owned and worked in. As this group of men in their fifties and sixties sat chewing tobacco and talking about issues of the day, Jim tried to sort out what it all meant. What he knew for certain was that he loved this time with the men who came to be known as the “Spit and Argue Club”. He was after all, a silent member of the club.
Through them he would learn about “the war to end all wars” and the challenges that the depression had brought their way. He would also develop a love of country that allowed him to dream the dream of one-day becoming president of the United States. Books about the adventures of Lou Wetzel and Betty Zane in Zane Grey westerns, as well as Horatio Alger books stoked his imagination for the possible.
Jim had been born into a hard working family where he would develop a sense of responsibility to handle whatever came his way and to add to the family income.
His time with the “Spit and Argue Club” also resulted in Jim often choosing to start conversations with his elders where he tried to relate with them as equals versus spending time with his contemporaries. Those choices would give him a broader understanding of the exciting “roaring twenties”, “prohibition”, and the 1929 stock market crash that led the United States into the depression.
The small town of Plevna, Missouri did not escape the challenges of the depression and those events changed the course of Jim’s life. College was not an option now and despite trying to work in several jobs, he could not earn enough. So in the summer of 1932 at age nineteen, Jim chose to enlist in the U.S. Navy with a high school classmate just two years older than he.
That decision to join the navy moved him away from the small rural town and family where his values had been developed. His hard-working attitude helped move him along to one success after another and his confidence grew for the possibilities that might lie ahead. He set aside the rumblings happening with the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany as he continued with his chosen career path, but God had plans for Jim and it all started in December 1933 when he finally agreed to go to Bible study led by Dawson Trotman.
Jim was not initially excited to look at the life of faith, but over time the Lord reached his heart through Dawson. By 1935, a variety of encounters resulted in Jim committing his life to the Lord.
That decision would not only alter his spiritual life, but his career as well as he went on to become part of the group that established The Navigators and served on board the U.S.S. West Virginia that was docked at Pearl Harbor on that fateful morning of December 7, 1941. Although not onboard when the bombs began dropping, Jim soon rushed to the scene and what he saw that day profoundly impacted him.
In the midst of the horrors of World War II that became personal for Jim at Pearl Harbor, two things stood out to him that shaped him for the future. The first was the discovery of peace in the midst of the chaos as he sought to extinguish flames aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia. With oil and ammunition surrounding him, he told the Lord, “I’ll see you in a minute”. He said it several more times and in the midst of his words, peace descended on him in ways he could not begin to explain.
The second thing that came from his experiences that day was the awareness of the lack of preparedness of so many in their faith as well as in the preparedness of the U.S. military. He determined that “weakness invites aggression” and that “freedom is worth protecting”. He urged everyone he met to “remember Pearl Harbor” and “keep America strong”.
The Other Side of Infamy invites you to walk through Jim’s life and many turning points for him and his family that I cannot begin to detail here. You get an intimate glimpse of how the Lord moves in his life, career, and ultimately, ministry over the course of his lifetime. You see the evidences of God’s faithfulness and Jim’s growth in obedience that continues to the end of the book—a faithful servant at the age of 103 still speaking out for Christ, reaching millions of people.
To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.