Obituaries for Tues., July 14, 2015

Published 5:19 pm Monday, July 13, 2015


Brig. Gen. James “Jim” Underwood Cross, 90, U.S. Air Force, Ret., of Gatesville, Texas, passed from this life to his eternal life in heaven on July 11, 2015. For 90 years, he lived a life of honor and respect, and leaves behind a kaleidoscope of memories for his family and all those who were privileged to know and serve with him. Jim—as he always introduced himself despite his rank—made history by becoming the only person to ever serve as Air Force One pilot for a President (Lyndon Baines Johnson) while simultaneously holding down a day job in the White House as armed forces aide to the president. “But I only got one pay check,” he liked to joke.

Jim was born on April 25, 1925, in the rural community of Pleasant Home, in the middle of longleaf pine growth, now preserved as the Conecuh National Forest. He was the eldest of seven children born to Susie Jessie Wells and James Kension Cross. After graduating from high school in 1943, the world of a small town boy from south Alabama changed forever when he was drafted into the U. S. Army Air Corps. He was trained as a pilot and served in World War II, flying air transport planes over the treacherous Himalayas as a “Hump” pilot. His love of flying was born, and except for the years he attended Auburn University in the mid-1940s, he was either training for or piloting an aircraft for the rest of his 28-year military career in the U. S. Air Force.

Jim’s love of flying was equaled only by the love he found with a teenager from Austin, Texas, named Marie Campbell. While stationed at Bergstrom Field in 1945, he met 16-year-old Marie at the skating rink on an evening out, and literally “fell” for her when she deliberately stuck out her leg to trip him. Their 64-year love story continued until her death in 2010. Marie and Jim were blessed with four children. The presence of family was one of Jim’s greatest joys.

Jim’s military career kept the family busy with relocation travels and new adventures across the globe and the United States. Jim was recalled to active duty in 1948 and served at military bases, flying transport aircraft at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, South Carolina, Newfoundland, Canada and at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Cross was sent to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., in 1958 (and later Andrews Air Force Base), where he served as pilot for VIP aircraft carrying government dignitaries. In 1961, he was appointed pilot to then Vice President Lyndon Johnson. In November 1963, Johnson became president and Jim served as the Air Force One co-pilot for one year, and then was appointed armed forces aide and command pilot to the president from 1965-1968. As White House military aide, Jim took to heart the responsibility of correspondence with U.S. troops fighting in Vietnam, and writing condolence letters to families of soldiers who died in that war.

It was the job as Air Force One pilot, however, that Jim enjoyed the most. With the indefatigable President Johnson as Jim’s co-pilot in adventure, the two men flew the presidential long-range Boeing 707 (tail number 26000) just about anywhere the president wanted to go. That plane was too big to land at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas, so Jim flew the President to the Texas White House in smaller JetStars. Just before Christmas in 1967, Jim set a presidential flight record by flying President Johnson and his entourage nearly 27,000 miles around the world in four-and-half days, including stops in Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Vatican to visit Pope Paul VI. Jim circumnavigated the globe on little more than catnaps because of the relentless travel pace.

Jim received orders to serve in Vietnam to fly missions in an RF4-C fighter jet. During Jim’s tour at Tan Son Nhut air base outside of Saigon, President Johnson phoned regularly to check on his welfare in country. Then, Jim returned to his family home in Austin, Texas, where Jim served as wing commander at Bergstrom Air Force Base. Brig. Gen. James U. Cross completed his military service in May 1971, retiring from the Air Force with a great sense of accomplishment and pride.

His retirement was short lived. Jim served as the executive director of both the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas Offshore Terminal Commission until his final retirement in 1976. He and Marie found a new passion in raising cattle and ranching that eventually led them to Coryell County and the small town of Levita, where they bought their retirement ranch. They enjoyed the peaceful walks across their place, the meandering creek, the wildlife and the solitude that ranching brought them. It was hard work, but Jim’s passion for his ranch life filled the retirement years with much joy!

Jim’s bigger-than-life personality and drive made him many friends far and wide who will miss his stories, his tales of world travels, and his always eager need to fix something; to learn about an old tractor, or to visit about the situation of the world. Jim’s love of tinkerin’ led him to join the wholesale automobile business, where he met some colorful characters who quickly became his friends and lifelong buddies. He always had an opinion and reminded us always that “there is only one captain…and I’m it!” He also found time to write his memoirs for the University of Texas Press (2008), “Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant.”

Preceding him in death were his wife, Marie Cross, in 2010; parents; brothers, Al Cross and Duane Cross; daughter, June McCann Rainwater, in 2001; and granddaughter, Chloe Ann Cross, in 2006.

Celebrating his life and mourning his passing are his daughters, Jeanie Cross Stark and husband, Bill, and Joanie Cross MacLean and husband, Doug; son, John Kevin Cross and wife, Sherry; son-in-law, David Rainwater; seven grandchildren, James Randall McCann and wife, Jenny, Mandy Marie Wells and husband, Jason, Jake MacLean, Kelly MacLean, Kimberly Michelle Lane and husband, Travis, and Reed William Cross; great-grandchildren, Kate, Emily and Zechariah McCann, Rowen and Sierra Wells, and Clarissa and Anabelle Lane; brothers, Aundre Cross and wife, Elaine, Aubrey Cross and wife, Peggy; sister, Mary Brown and husband, Doc; sisters-in-law, Jeanette Gruetzner and Becky Cross; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and special friends who he considered extended family. Jim’s very special friend, Jan Shelton, will especially miss their evenings listening to country music and sermons from the King Baptist Church in Gatesville, Texas.

Go rest high on that mountain Dad, because your work on earth is through. Praise to God! You and Mom are together again.

Jim’s family wishes to thank the doctors, nurses and staff of the Coryell Memorial Health System for their loving care of him.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Scott’s Funeral Home in Gatesville, Texas, under the direction of dear friend, Daren Moore. To commemorate Jim’s life, services and times of remembrance will be held at three locations with Bro. Charles McKamie officiating. In Gatesville, services will be held at 5 p.m. today, Tues., July 14, 2015, at Scott’s Funeral Home Chapel, 2425 E. Main St., with visitation following until 7 p.m. In Austin, Texas, visitation with the family will be from 6-8 p.m. tomorrow, Wed., July 15, 2015, at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N Lamar Blvd. In Andalusia, funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Fri., July 17, 2015, at Pleasant Home Baptist Church, 9689 Rome Road. Burial with Full Military Honors will follow at Pleasant Home Baptist Church Cemetery.

Contributions may be made in Jim’s memory to the King Baptist Church, 601 County Road 135, Gatesville, TX 76528, or to Pleasant Home Baptist Church Cemetery, 9689 Rome Road, Andalusia, AL 36420.


Mrs. Margaret Elaine Little, 72, of Andalusia, died on Sat., July 11, 2015, at her residence.

A graveside service was held on Mon., July 13, 2015, at Rawls Cemetery. The Rev. Durwood Cleland officiated.

Mrs. Little is survived by her husband, Howard Oliver of Andalusia; daughter, Tamala Locke of Andalusia; son, Tim Little (Heather Jackson) of Andalusia; grandchildren, Eric Short, Nikole (Tim) Johnson, Ashley Jackson, Allison Jackson, Tim Little and Heather Little; great-grandchildren, Blaine Short, Nick Short, Kadyn Johnson, Kasyn Johnson and Karley Johnson; brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Patsy English of Elba; step-son and daughter-in-law, Russell and Lauryn Oliver; and step-daughter and son-in-law, Ginger and Royce Ellis.

Pallbearers included Jim Turner, Mike Murphy, Mark Spicer, Russell Oliver, Ronnie Smith and Randall Holland.

Family and friends unable to attend may sign a guest register at


Mr. Dennis Grant Sightler, 53, of Andalusia, died on Sat., July 11, 2015, at Southeast Alabama Medical Center.

Funeral services were held on Sun., July 12, 2015, at Judson Baptist Church with Rev. Ed Russell and the Rev. Hank Roberts serving as officiates. Interment followed in Judson Cemetery.

Mr. Sightler is survived by parents, Glenn and Faye Sightler; brother and sister-in-law, Royce and Joyce Sightler; sister, Kay Cheshire; nieces and nephews, Amanda and Merrill Hammett, Abbie and Stewart Robinson, Jeremiah Cheshire, Jessica and Steven Cobb; a number of great-nieces and nephews; and a number of aunts and uncles.

Pallbearers include Merrill Hammett, Stewart Robinson, Jeremiah Cheshire, Danny Sightler, Clay Elmore and Steven Cobb.

Special music was by Amanda Hammett, Abbie Robinson, Jeremiah Cheshire and Jessica Cobb.

The family asks, in lieu of flowers, please make memorials to Judson Baptist Church or Judson Cemetery.

Family and friends unable to attend may sign a guest register at


Martin Andrews Stephens, 36, passed away on Thurs., July 9, 2015.

Martin, an avid Auburn fan, was born on Aug. 13, 1978, in Pensacola, Fla. He was a member of the Woodham High School baseball team and graduated in 1996. He was enrolled at Pensacola State College and the University of West Florida as a fulltime student. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, where he faithfully served his country for 12 years. During that time, he deployed overseas nine times, which included, Djibouti, Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was stationed at Hurlburt Air Force Base with the special operations unit. He was placed on temporary medical retirement as a TSgt. because of his next battle, bone cancer. Martin was a four-year cancer survivor. In April 2014, his family faced yet another battle. Their home was destroyed by the floods and had to be rescued by boat. Despite all the battles he faced, he remained a humble, loving, father, son and friend to all. His greatest loves were his family, Jenny, who was his high school’s sweetheart and wife, and their two sons, Ethan and Henry. Martin was the type of man who would help others before himself. His kind and gentle spirit will be missed forever.

He is survived by his wife, Jenny, of Pensacola; their two sons, Ethan and Henry of Pansacola; his loving mother, Pamela Martin (Keith) Waters of Pensacola; his father, Michael (Miriam) Stephens of Kinston; and his loving sister, Fielding (Collin) Ryder of Pensacola.

Martin also will be lovingly remembered by his aunts, uncles, cousins, step-brothers step-sisters, nieces and nephews.

He also leaves behind his three best friends, Zach Fleming, Travis Shaw and Allen Miller.

Even though he was faced with many battles through his life, he remained steadfast in his Christian faith. He has no more battles and he is finally at peace.

Family will receive friends today, Tues., July 14, 2015, from 5-7 p.m. at Faith Chapel North, Hwy. 29. The funeral service will be held at noon at Faith Chapel North tomorrow, Wed., July 15, 2015, followed military honors at Barrancas National Cemetery at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Wounded Warriors Project.



A memorial service for Sharon Fletcher (Breezee) and Miguel Bernal is set for 6:30 p.m. at Kirkpatrick Park in Andalusia.

Fletcher and Bernal died on June 23, 2015, in Opp, after being struck by lightning.

Friends are encouraged to dress casually and to attend a bring-a-dish gathering following the service.

The park is located at 664 Beatrice St.

For directions or other information, call 334-892-3599 or 334-488-4911.