James Wofford began his life in Faulkner County, and it seems like he will end it here, no matter how long that day may come, but it’s the in between that has been the most fascinating. Wofford’s adventures have taken him around the world and given him access to some of the great moments in the United States’ history. According to him, however, it has all been about accepting what has been placed in front of him and making the most of his opportunities.
Sergeant Major James Wofford never attended a traditional college. In fact, he received his General Educational Development Diploma instead of graduating from high school with his classmates. But despite those obstacles, he attained a level of clearance in the United States Army that allowed him to work with teams at NASA and achieve the highest rankings in the Army’s Air Defense Command. In fact, the pages of commendations and certificates Wofford has earned throughout the years takes up nearly a quarter of his newly written memoirs, “From There To Here.” He shows these written works mainly to area students to show them that they are able to succeed at what they set their mind to, even though they may not head down the most traditional path.
“God has a special place for all of us,” Wofford said. “And you may not realize it when you’re struggling. How could a man like me who had nothing more than a GED be able to do the things I did?”
Wofford has always been eager to point out that the sharing of his life is not done for any personal glory, but rather as a means to help those younger than him in their pursuit of achieving their dreams.
“It’s not always the same for everyone,” he said. “I had absolutely no knowledge of college. I never planned on going there. But the path I took and the people that helped me along the way allowed me to have a full, fulfilling life.”
The “there” in “From There To Here” is a log cabin in an area of Faulkner County known as Happy Valley. He was born during a hailstorm and put to bed in an old washtub. He was one of seven children who lived in a small house, a painting of which can be found on the wall of his Conway home. The bulk of “From There To Here” describes Wofford’s journey from Faulkner County to time with the Army and with the Apollo space missions, as well as his time crossing the country with his wife, Jody, until her death a few years ago.
“I am grateful for my career in the military,” he said. “It opened the world for me. I was surrounded by fellow enlisted men and officers who taught me, led me, encouraged and praised me.”
Wofford worked extensively in the space program during its emergence in the 1950’s and 1960’s. His souvenirs cannot be found in a gift store or even a museum. A “super sniffer cup” is found among items that have been launched into space, given to him for his participation as a human guinea pig to test how certain materials would react in space. He also has coins and trinkets that were only given out to those working on the inner circle of the Apollo missions.
His friend Virginia Nutter is featured in the foreward of the book, telling Wofford how “valuable and inspirational [his] story is.”
“[The book] encourages curiosity, drive, determination, honesty, humility and faith,” she wrote. “It teaches that no matter where you begin, you can succeed beyond your greatest expectations and that when you need that helping hand, it can be found at the end of your arm.”
Wofford has spent time recently sharing his story with students in area schools, and he would like nothing more than to keep doing that.
“I feel like there has to be a reason why I’m stil here,” he said. “And if my story can inspire someone else, then that’s what I want it to do.”
(Ricky Duke is the Editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)