In December 1935, James Hayward Kelley, Jr. was born in Wewahitchka, Florida. His mother was Erin Andrews Kelley of Dale County, Alabama and his father was James Hayward Kelley of Houston County, Alabama.
In 1940 the family moved to Ozark, Alabama, his mother’s home town where they lived in his mother’s old home place until after James’ college years.
The schools of Ozark furnished James his early education. He was privileged to be a Boy Scout and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He was the first elected Chief of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Order of the Arrow. In high school he played football two years and in 1954 graduated as valedictorian of his class.
In 1954, James entered Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn) with the desire to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering.
Once in school all able bodied male students were required to participate in Junior ROTC. Knowing he would be faced with a military obligation after graduation James chose to voluntarily continue in the Senior Army ROTC Program which would lead to a commission of 2nd Lt.
While attending Auburn he spent his summers working on the Training Program sponsored by the Alabama Road Builders Association. His first summer, he was assigned to work with Mr. H.C. “Hack” Jordan with Jordan Pile Driving Company in Ozark.
The exposure he was given to hard work, mud and creosote added greatly to his motivation to get back to Auburn to earn a degree. The remaining two summers under the Road Builders Program, James was assigned to work with the Alabama Highway Department. The exposure he received while participating with Alabama Road Builders Association Training Program helped convince him to later pursue a career in highway work.
After graduation from Auburn, James went to work with the Alabama Highway Department full time working on construction projects in the Seventh Division in Southeast Alabama. That same year he was ordered to active duty in the U.S. Army for six months.
After his release from the U.S. Army James returned to work with the Alabama Highway Department working in both the Field Division and Central office in Montgomery.
A blind date provided James with the opportunity to meet Burnie Rae Lassiter, while she was attending Troy State University. They later married in 1960 and were blessed with two daughters.
In 1961, the National Guard unit, 2nd Lt. Kelley was assigned was called to active duty and assigned to Fort Irwin, California until August 1962 when he was released from active duty. He returned to work and became Assistant Project Engineer working on projects in the Eufaula area.
In the spring of 1963, James was promoted to Civil Engineer II and assigned to the division office in Troy to supervise a design team developing highway projects.
In 1966, James was assigned as District Construction Engineer in Greenville where he worked on a variety of projects. Two years later he was transferred to Dothan as District Engineer.
In May 1969, James was assigned to assist Mr. R.N. Rice in his responsibilities for Construction, Secondary roads and Preliminary engineering for the 7th Division.
One of his principle duties was organizing and conducting public hearings for the division in addition to maintaining contact with the construction activities. After Mr. Rice was promoted to Division Engineer, James was assigned to be Assistant Division Engineer.
After the death of Mr. Charles Adams, Division Engineer in 1976, James was appointed Division Engineer for the Seventh Division. In this capacity he was responsible for the various activities for that division which encompassed nine counties in southeast Alabama.
In 1986, a special relationship developed between James and his daughter, Erin when she experienced total kidney failure while a sophomore at Troy State University. Testing determined James was compatible and donated his kidney to her. The surgery was conducted at UAB and was a success.
In August 1997, James retired from the Alabama Highway Department of Transportation as Division Engineer for the Seventh Division with a total of 39 years of service.