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Happy 100th Birthday Pvt. T. J. Boothe, U.S, Army WWII

Mr. T. J. Boothe says he never dreamed he would live to be 100. He was born 100 years ago this December 18, in the community of Sweet Home, about five miles north of Opp, Alabama. His parents were Henry W. and Eurethra Wasden Boothe. He and his twin brother, J. C., were the last of 14 siblings in the family. T. J. went to Valley Grove School and finished the 6th grade. Around the age of 16, T. J. went to work for Mr. Ralph Avant, delivering groceries for $5 per week. Several years later, he started work in a restaurant near Daleville. He learned how to cook and help feed the soldiers from Camp Rucker [as it was then called].

  1. J. registered for the draft in 1942. In January 1944, T. J. married Pauline Cowen. They would have a son, Steve who was born in January 1945. Around that time, T. J. enlisted in the Army. When he finished basic training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, he was assigned to the 397th Military Police Battalion and sent to Europe. They arrived in Nuremberg, Germany just as combat was winding down. After arrival, the battalion asked for volunteers to cook in the officers’ mess. T. J. said he remembered being told to never volunteer for anything, but he decided to go ahead and volunteer since he already had experience as a cook. He recalled that “Our battalion was set up in the Humser Brewery building. We used it for a barracks and as an operations center. In the officers’ mess, I had 20 to 30 people working for me – waiters, waitresses, cooks and other kitchen people.”

One day an officer asked T. J. if he would like to attend a session of the on-going Nuremberg trials. He assured the officer that he would like to attend and soon found himself at the trials. He remembered, “The man on trial was Arthur Seyss Unquart. He was accused – among other things – of using a church in the Netherlands to train soldiers.” 

 

Seyss Inquart was born in Austria and became a lawyer after having served in WW I. He was appointed governor after the Austrian governor, Kurt von Schuschnigg resigned, after refusing demands by Hitler in 1938. With Seyss Inquart in charge, Austria was renamed, Ostmark. In May 1940, he was named Reich Commissioner of the Netherlands. Under Seyss Inquart, more than  140,000 Dutch Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Only 8,000 of them survived the war and many of them came forward to testify against Seyss Inquart at his trial in Nuremberg. He was found guilty of war crimes and hanged in October 1946.

 

Late in 1945, the army decided that Private Boothe should be discharged since he had a son. Mr. Boothe returned home in January 1946 and went to work helping his father-in-law Bob Cowen on the farm. A second son, Rickey, was born in 1946. After working with Mr. Cowen, T. J. worked at several jobs including inspecting peanuts and driving a gas truck. In 1959, he built the first chicken houses in the Opp area and raised broilers for about 45 years.  He looked after the chicken houses before automatic feeders and said, “I worked day and night in those chicken houses.”

Mr. Boothe has been a Mason for more than 70 years and is a member of Opp Lodge No. 605. His wife, Pauline, died in 2002. He married Janice Benton in 2004. After she died in 2015, T. J. went to live with Rickey. 

Mr. Boothe likes to ride around with his son, Dr. Steve Boothe, who is a retired veterinarian and loves to eat lunch at Steve’s restaurant, Doc’s Country Store. When asked about the secret to a long life, he said, “Eat lots of vegetables and drink lots of water.” He doesn’t eat steak or chicken but will occasionally eat a little hamburger or pork.

 

On Friday, December 18, Mr. T. J. Boothe celebrated his 100th birthday. His family plans a small celebration on Saturday. Joining him will be many friends, his sons Steve, Rickey and their families and many of his five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. 

John Vick

 

[Sources: The Opp News, November 8, 2007; The Opp News November 5, 2020; Special thanks to Rickey Boothe and Mrs. Jan White]