How a lucky ‘break’ changed the course of a life

RIPLEY – Many people in Tippah County know Joe Nabors as a former Sheriff and the owner of Nabors’ Tire Store in Ripley. He is also one of the rapidly dwindling number of WWII veterans. Joe was born 91 years ago on Jan. 20, 1918, in Dumas. He was the eldest of four children. He had two brothers and a sister. He attended Dumas School for 11 years. Dumas School was rumored to be closing, so Joe moved to live with an uncle in Ripley and graduated from Ripley High School. After receiving his diploma he had various occupations including working in Renfrow’s Café, at First Monday, a service station, a drug store, M.L. Finger’s Shoe Store, and helping Earl Gaillard be elected sheriff. In June 1941 he married Ruby Yancy. They rented an apartment in Ripley. Ruby worked at the beauty salon; Joe was working around town. Joe volunteered for service in August 1942. He thought he might be an airplane mechanic. He reported to Memphis for duty Nov. 2, 1942. He was given a choice of station and chose Jackson, Miss.. From Memphis, he traveled to a base at Smyrna, Tenn., for his physical and on to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., for uniforms and swearing in. On Nov. 6, 1942 he reported for basic training at the air base in Jackson, and was assigned to the 35th Air Squadron. Joe had completed three weeks of mechanic training when his ‘break’ came into play. The day after Thanksgiving, having finished some hard days of training, the commander allowed ‘the boys’ to have a baseball game. Sliding into second base, Joe’s leg was broken when one of the other players rolled on it. He spent the next 69 days in the hospital. All the boys he knew were shipped out and new ones were shipped in. Ruby had come to Jackson to live. Things were going OK, but he did not want to be discharged. Consequently, he was given limited service status and assigned to the personnel office. He completed, shuffled and filed service records for a year and a half. During that time his broken leg was never ‘right’. As he tells it, the leg was finally put ‘right’ when he fell on it during a little accident. “That accident loosened it up,” he said. The only time he was transferred out of Jackson was in the fall of 1944 when he was given a short assignment to Mobile, Ala. In 28-days, he helped place 200 men on liberty ships headed to the South Pacific. Joe returned to Jackson. When the war was over, he didn’t have enough points to be discharged so he stayed on the base with little to do and only a dozen men left on base. He describes his rank as a “three stripe sergeant.” After his discharge in February, 1946, Joe and Ruby returned to Ripley. Ruby went back to work in the beauty shop and Joe didn’t do anything for a few months, just a few odd jobs and day labor. In 1947, he started ‘peddling candy’ in Prentiss, Benton and Tippah counties. From 1951 – 1955 Joe served as Sheriff of Tippah County. A law prevented him from succeeding himself as sheriff, thus he needed to find another profession. That law changed in 1957. He was in the used car business for a number of years. He built new homes and renovated others, moving nine times from 1951-1988. In 1980 Joe opened Nabors’ Tire Company. Ruby died 1988. In 1989, Joe married Barbara Booker. In 1997, he retired. In 2005, he lost Barbara. Over the years, Joe has done some traveling. He has seen every state and toured Canada and Mexico. Joe has two sons, Kerry and Larry Joe, and a daughter, Kathy Balof. All live in Ripley. There are two grandsons and three granddaughters. He is a member of the First Methodist Church, Post 81 of The American Legion, and the Lions Club. His activities include “loafing around town” and visiting with local used car dealers. He attributes his longevity to not taking any medications, trying not to overeat and getting a little exercise along the way. Joe said, “I don’t know how I could have been so lucky. I didn’t serve overseas and I didn’t see battle. But, I never got to see any foreign countries either…that was probably a good thing.” Joe claims he didn’t do much during the war. We all know that everyone who served was a vital part of the War effort and did their duty. Joe, thank you for your service. And about that leg…it has been ‘right’ ‘til this day. What a break!

Carolyn Tardy