James C. Spencer

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James Clarence Spencer
Texas State Representative from Henderson County
In office
Preceded by Jap Lucas
Succeeded by Jap Lucas
In office
Preceded by Jap Lucas
Succeeded by Jack Y. Hardee
Personal details
Born (1914-05-11)May 11, 1914
Henderson County
Texas, USA
Died December 25, 2009(2009-12-25) (aged 95)
Lubbock, Texas
Political party Democratic

(1) Oneita Hildebrand Spencer (divorced)

(2) Catherine Clay Cox Spencer (married 1959-2009, his death)

Charles H. Spencer

One step-daughter

(1) Athens, Texas

(2) Lubbock, Texas
Alma mater

Texas Tech University

Georgetown University
Occupation U.S. Postal Service employee
Religion United Methodist

James Clarence Spencer (May 11, 1914 – December 25, 2009)[1] was a survivor of the Bataan Death March during World War II and a Democratic politician from Athens, the seat of Henderson County in east Texas.


Spencer was born in Athens, the fifth of six children and the last surviving offspring, of Charles Augustus Spencer, a veteran of the Spanish–American War,[2] and the former Lillian Freeman.[3] At the age of twenty-four, he entered the Texas House of Representatives, serving two nonconsecutive terms from 1939–1941 and 1947–1949.[4] Spencer also served a term as the Henderson county judge, but his obituary does not clarify his dates of service in that position.[3]

Bataan Death March[edit]

Between his state legislative terms, Spencer was a United States Army medic, who attained the rank of sergeant.[3] He was held as a prisoner of war for three years in the Philippine Islands, after having survived the notorious Bataan Death March.[2] Spencer told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in a 2008 interview that his captivity occurred during "a time of scarcity. Three years of near starvation with only meager rations of rice."[2]

The march involved the forced transfer to prison camps of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners, including later Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, who had been captured by the Japanese in April 1942 at the Bataan Peninsula. The emaciated prisoners were compelled to march sixty miles in tropical heat without food and medication. Only 54,000 survived the nearly week-long march, characterized by extreme physical abuse inflicted on the men by their captors. Spencer said that he survived the march because of his "belief in Christ and determination." He indicated that he would again undergo such brutality to "help my country."[2]

For his meritorious service, Spencer was awarded the Bronze Star. He was an active member of the Hub of the Plains chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War.[3]

Family life[edit]

In January 1959, Spencer married the former Catherine Clay Cox (November 4, 1914—March 10, 2011), or "Katy," a native of Dallas, Texas. Her parents, William Elias Cox and the former Mary Ida Clay, were rural schoolteachers who reared their family in Henderson County. James and Katy first met when they were nine years old at a spelling bee in Athens, Texas, and then again in a chemistry class at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where both were students.[5]

From a previous marriage to the former Oneita Hildebrand, Spencer had a son, Charles H. Spencer (born 1954), who is married to Anita Spencer, of Houston, Texas. James and Oneita Spencer lived in Texarkana, but the obituary does not indicate whether their residence was in Texas or Arkansas or how long they lived there.[3] In 1936, Spencer received a degree in textile engineering from Texas Tech, presumably motivated by cotton which was then prevalent in east Texas. Nine years later upon his discharge from the military in 1945, Spencer served on the police force of the U.S. House of Representatives while he attended law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. His obituary does not indicate if he received a law degree. With his second marriage, he moved to Lubbock to take a position with the U.S. Postal Service, which he held until his retirement in the middle 1980s. He was a member of the Masonic lodge.[3]

From her previous marriage, Katy Spencer had a daughter, Ann (a 1962 graduate of Texas Tech). Katy Spencer graduated from Texas Tech in 1934 at the age of nineteen with a degree in chemistry. She had a long career as a medical technologist, much of it at the Methodist Hospital in Lubbock, but also earlier at the Ragland Clinic in Gilmer in Upshur County, Texas.[5]

James and Katy Spencer were married just a few days short of fifty-one years. He died on Christmas Day 2009 in Lubbock, and she followed him in death some fifteen months later. They were members of the United Methodist church and are interred at Resthaven Cemetery in Lubbock.[3][5]


  1. ^ "Spencer, James Clarence". Social Security Death Index. RootsWeb. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Former POW James Spencer values service to others". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. September 22, 2008. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "James C. Spencer obituary". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. December 27, 2009. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Legislative Reference Library of Texas: James C. Spencer". lrl.state.tx.us. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "Catherine Spencer obituary". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, March 14,. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
Preceded by
Jap Lucas
State Representative from Henderson County, Texas

James Clarence Spencer

Succeeded by
Jap Lucas
Preceded by
Jap Lucas
State Representative from Henderson County, Texas

James Clarence Spencer

Succeeded by
Jack Y. Hardee