by Jennifer Yos
LANSING, Ill. (August 5, 2020) – Coast Guard Day is August 4. Every year this day commemorates the date in 1790 when Congress granted Alexander Hamilton’s request for a Revenue-Marine—the precursor to today’s United States Coast Guard. Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, saw our country’s critical financial need for an armed customs enforcement service that could uphold tariff laws and prevent smuggling at our Eastern seaports. This Revenue-Marine, composed of a fleet of cutters that directed incoming ships to specific ports of entry, became the nation’s only sea service in its early years as a republic.
Fast forward 230 years later to the landlocked Maple Street front lawn of Lansing resident Jim King. King served as a US Coast Guard Seaman in the early 1950s, and also happens to share an August 4th birthday with the very service to which he pays homage each year. His decorated lawn (shown above)—which would do Alexander Hamilton proud—celebrates both birthdays, this year his 88th year and the USCG’s 230th.
King clearly appreciates the two and a half years he served in the U.S. Coast Guard. He admits that when his draft number was coming up in the Korean War draft, he didn’t know much about the Coast Guard, and the real appeal was that he had heard it was a shorter stint than in the Navy. A Missouri native, young Jim told his father that he hoped to get an assignment on the Mississippi River. So he and his four buddies signed up together, and he ended up serving at homeport Kodiak, Alaska, on the 180-foot buoy tender USCGC Bittersweet. In addition to servicing ocean buoys and shore station navigation lights, King says he and his fellow seamen were also able to enjoy Alaskan fishing and bear hunting while there.
But when asked about his favorite memory of being in the Coast Guard, King answers without hesitation, “My wife.” King met his wife of 67 years—Sally—while he was in the US Coast Guard and ported in Vancouver, Washington. Together this year they celebrated Jim’s 88th birthday, along with their four daughters, in Lansing on Maple Street.