James Edward Convey, Jr.
Colonel, United States Army
of his classmates
United States Military Academy, Class of 1946
James Edward Convey, Jr. No.15502
James Edward Convey, Jr., affectionately known as "Jim" by his friends and family, was born 22 June 1925 in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest in a family of four children, Jim grew up in Forest Hills, New York. Always an inquisitive young man, Jim became an excellent student at an early age. His interest in history and geography led him into stamp collecting and in time he had accumulated an extraordinary collection. This was an interest that was to stay with Jim throughout his life. Jim attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn as a scholarship student, but graduated from LaSalle Academy in New York. He took the entrance exams for both Annapolis and West Point and was accepted by both. Jim's first love was West Point; thus, he entered in July 1943 with the Class of 1946.
In June 1943, just before Jim left for the Academy, he gave his pet German Shepherd, Fritz, to the Army, to be trained as a sentry dog.
Life as a cadet posed no great problems for Jim. He approached academics in a relaxed manner and did well with little apparent effort. He stayed out of trouble and did not concern himself too much with the disciplinary side of cadet life. Jim was unhurried, unharried and unworried with a quality of serenity in difficult situations. One of his roommates, Jim Welch, recalls only one time when Jim seemed worried. He was a "walrus" and was concerned with making the swim. Jim Welch recalls that Jim would do anything to help another person in need; he made those around him feel good. He always wanted to do the right thing. Graduation saw Jim become a second lieutenant of Artillery.
Following graduation, Jim attended the Artillery Basic Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Fort Bliss, Texas. From school, his first assignment was to the Constabulary in Germany. Most of his three years in Germany were spent as a battery officer in the 517th Field Artillery Battalion. During this period, Jim developed a reputation as an outstanding artilleryman. He returned to the States to attend the Radar and Electronics Course at Fort Bliss. While attending that course he met Luella Morris, whom he was to marry in 1951 while an instructor at Fort Sill in Observation Department.
From Fort Sill, Jim went to Korea in 1954 with duty as a battery commander in an observation battalion. His return to the United States in 1955 saw him assigned to the Artillery Board at Fort Sill. After three years at Fort Sill, Jim attended the Pakistan Command and Staff College, followed by a tour with the Military Assistance Advisory Group there. From Pakistan, Jim returned to Washington, DC to serve in the Artillery Branch of the Officer Personnel Directorate. In 1962, Jim's marriage ended in divorce.
Always close to his family, Jim became even closer to his nieces and nephews. He was a wonderful uncle and became a positive role model for each of them.
July 1964 saw Jim assigned to Vietnam as deputy senior advisor to the Vietnamese 1st Infantry Division near Hue. Jim's sister-in-law, Joann Convey, recalls that during this tour her family sent parcels of clothing to Jim to give to a Montgnard tribe that Jim had adopted. At Christmas time, he had her send Christmas records for the new regional Voice of America radio station. Jim made tapes of the records for each unit so the troops could have music over the holidays. He also contributed generously to a small Catholic orphanage during this period. Jim, in his modesty, never mentioned this to anyone. It would have gone unknown had not Roberta received a letter from a priest of the order expressing his condolences and his gratitude for Jim's help. These are just examples of the way Jim assumed his responsibilities and his involvement in the community to which he was assigned, no matter where it was.
Upon his return to the United States, he commanded the 2nd Battalion, 44th Artillery, a Pershing battalion at Fort Sill. After attending the Army War College in 1967, Jim was assigned to Germany to command the 56th Artillery Group. One of Jim's battalion commanders during this period was Jack Goldstein (USMA '55). Jack describes Jim as a warm and caring human being who always put the welfare of others above his own. He recalls the guidance that Jim gave him just before he assumed command of his battalion, "Jack, the troops in the 1/81 know how to technically perform missile countdowns, but they don't know how to soldier. Teach them that the entire Army is made up of people who are good soldiers as well as good technicians." While at Schwabish Gmund, Jim led US troop participation in a local Volksmarsch. Upon receiving a medal from the local mayor for his efforts, Jim said, "That was one medal I really earned."
From Germany, Jim returned to Vietnam for a tour in the J-3 Section of Headquarters MACV. From Vietnam, Jim returned to Washington, DC for assignment to the Weapons Systems and Evaluation Group. In 1972, Jim met Roberta Thornton, a Navy widow with five grown children. Jim and Roberta were married in 1974. He became a strong positive influence on his new family and was admired as well as loved and respected by Roberta's five children. Unfortunately, Jim shortly thereafter developed a brain tumor; his condition deteriorated to the point that he was retired for medical reasons in 1975 and died on 25 January 1976.
He is survived by his wife, Roberta; his stepchildren; a brother, Edward; and two sisters, Mary and Anne.
Jim Convey was a truly fine human being. First and foremost, he was an honorable man. He was not only gentle but a gentleman at all times. He was a leader while in the Army. He loved the Army and knew instinctively the right thing to do (as in the harder right instead of the easier wrong). He set high standards of performance, but demanded more of himself than of others. He had great compassion for the soldiers with whom he served. His deep religious beliefs greatly influenced his life. As a friend and classmate, Hal Halgren recalls, "I don't think Jim ever made an enemy."
Hal visited Jim at Walter Reed during his final stay there and was uplifted by his ability to accept the short time he had left. Although not spoken, Hal left Jim convinced that his main concern was not for himself, but that he would no longer be there to give his love and devotion to his family and his country.
James Edward Convey, Jr. was one of those confident, selfless members of the Class of 1946 who after graduation carried Duty, Honor, Country into the Army system and lived up to those high ideals throughout his career. His family, friends and classmates will always remember Jim fondly and be comforted by knowing that for a short time they were able to be in the presence of a truly good man.
"Well Done, Jim, Be Thou At Peace."
'46 Memorial Article Project and his wife Roberta