October 22, 2022: James “Jimmy” Stewart
James “Jimmy” Maitland Stewart was born in May 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth and Alexander Stewart. After earning a degree in architecture from Princeton University in 1932, the future star helped prepare a show for Broadway with the University Players based in Falmouth, Massachusetts, because he didn’t believe many jobs would be available to him. This experience led to his passion for acting and started a 56-year career in show business.
In 1935, Stewart began acting with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he starred in many films during the Golden Age with actors such as Ginger Rogers and Clark Gable. He later signed a contract with the talent agency Music Corporation of America and completed films such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He received various accolades during his acting career, including two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards.
From a young age, Stewart had a passion for aviation, too, and he obtained his private pilot’s license at the age of 27. In March 1941, he was drafted into the Army, but was deemed unfit because he did not meet the weight requirement. A short time later, he enlisted into the Army Air Corps and was able to follow in the footsteps of his family: Stewart’s father and grandfather both served in the military.
The young actor completed basic training at Moffett Field, California. Despite his desire to fly overseas, he remained stateside, training pilots until he was finally able to travel to England as a captain with the Eighth Air Force. By the end of World War II, he had completed 20 combat missions as the leader of a squadron of B-24’s, received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Croix de Guerre while earning the rank of colonel.
After the Air Force became an independent branch of the military, Stewart continued his military career in the Air Force Reserve and showcased his expertise in aviation in some of his films. Following more than 27 years in the military, he retired in May 1968 with the rank of brigadier general. He was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
Stewart married Gloria Hatrick McLean in 1949, and the two remained together for 45 years, until Gloria died in 1994. He had four children: two twin daughters and two stepsons, one of whom died in the Vietnam War.
Stewart died in July 1997.
We honor his service.
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