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James was born in Weatherford, Texas on April 5, 1922, the only son of James C. and Elizabeth Moore Plumlee. A descendant of Parker County pioneers and a sixth-generation Texan, he grew up in Weatherford, and graduated from Weatherford High School in 1939. He showed an aptitude for art and design throughout his school career, and received honors both in intramural contests and at exhibits in Weatherford College for his drawings and paintings. He was named art editor for the high school yearbook his senior year. He placed second in the state in a tennis tournament while still in high school. In 1938, he attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. He attended S.M.U. and the University of Texas in Austin before volunteering for the U.S. Army in World War II. He earned the expert rifleman’s badge in basic training and served as a combat infantryman in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army in Europe. He was active in the Battle of the Rhineland and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor. At the end of the war in Europe and while still on active duty, he attended the University of London and received a Certificate in Architecture. In the fall of 1945, he was assigned as a courier and clerk to the offices of Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Counsel for the Prosecution, at the Nuremberg War Trials in Germany.
Upon returning to civilian life in 1946, he reentered the University of Texas at Austin where he met Mary Margaret Livingston of Liberty, Texas, whom he married on June 22, 1948, in the home of her parents.
For several years the young couple lived in West Texas where James worked for Gulf Oil Corporation. Soon after being transferred to Midland in 1957, he began his career as a retail store designer for Southwestern Drug Corp. He was transferred to Dallas in 1964 and became General Manager of the Design and Merchandising Division, whose territory covered Texas and all the bordering states.
In Dallas, James, a life-long Methodist, became active in Highland Park United Methodist Church where he served as Chairman of the Greeters Committee, served on the Administrative Board, the We Care Ministry, the Program Ministries Council, and was a long-time volunteer in the HPUMC Archives. For a number of years he served as Treasurer of the Texas United Methodist Historical Society. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Tourist Council, and was a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas.
In later years, his wife, Mary, wrote and published a book entitled In the Shadow of the Steeple in which she recounted James’ experiences in Patton’s Third Army in World War II, and following, at the Nuremberg War Trials.
James is preceded in death by his sister, Mrs. M. W. Brock, in 1996.
Survivors include Mary, his wife of 63 years; a son, Daniel Livingston Plumlee and wife, Elizabeth Ruman Plumlee; a daughter, Elizabeth Ellen Russell of Kenmore, Washington; five grandchildren, Richard Wyatt Russell, Jr., James Austin Russell, Daniel Livingston Plumlee, Jr., Katherine Mahan Plumlee and David Ruman Plumlee. He is also survived by a nephew, James W. Brock of Midland and a niece, Linda Knight of Kermit, Texas.