LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Laurel native and World War II veteran Private First Class James B. Jones passed away Friday.
PFC Jones was born in Laurel on March 22, 1922. At age 21 he was drafted for service in the Army and trained at Camp Lee, Virginia where he was eventually sent to a Replacement Detachment near Paris, France. While he was there he was selected for the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American tank unit to fight in combat.
The "Black Panther" continued his service following the War, but never received the medals he was due from his service until he was 91-years-old.
On June 15 2013, Congressman Steven Palazzo awarded Jones with seven different medals at a presentation held by The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum located in Camp Shelby. Jones received his Marksman Badge and Rifle Bar, a WWII Honorable Service lapel button, an American Campaign Medal , an Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp, a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon, a World War II Victory Medal and a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars.
On December 9, 2014, The Republic of France officially gave thanks to the tank gunner for helping liberate the country from Nazis. Jones received France's highest honor, the Legion of Honor, at Camp Shelby. Jones was decorated as a Knight of the Legion of Honor by the Consul General of France in Atlanta, Denis Barbet.
Jones was also recently given the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet in Laurel.
Aside from being a World War II veteran, Jones was also a former City of Laurel councilman and was also once the president of the Laurel-Jones County branch of the NAACP.
Since the passing of Jones, there are now nine living members of the African-American Tank Battalion.
PFC Jones was 92-years-old when he passed away. His funeral is Saturday, April 11 in Laurel at Second Baptist Church. Visitation is from 12 – 2 p.m. and the funeral service will be after that.