WVU honors 104-year-old Pearl Harbor Survivor

MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - The second oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor was honored on the big stage on Friday morning in Morgantown.

Lt. Jim Downing is 104 years old, and was aboard the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked it. On Friday, he was recognized by the WVU Alumni Association.

Those sacrifices have stuck with WVU President E. Gordon Gee so much, that he feels his student body will be able to take something away from Downing's experiences.

"I think sometimes we need to remind ourselves that 75 years ago, we were on our backs," Gee said. "Our country is thriving today because of what Lt. Downing and all of his compatriots did."

Downing went to sailors after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, memorized their names, and told the families that their sons were heroes. Being recognized the way he was on Friday, surrounded by valuable members of the WVU community -- quite the honor, according to Downing.

"It's a great privilege and I can just accept it on behalf of all West Virginians that served aboard the West Virginia," Downing said. "I wish there were hundreds during the time it was in commission."

Before he went off to a book signing at the WVU bookstore, he offered some advice to today's generation.

"Keep America strong," Downing said. "The leaders, and the taxpayers, and the voters, and the legislators of tomorrow -- keep America strong."

"He was there, he survived, he continued to serve, and he's still telling the story," Gee said. "This is an issue about stories. We need to constantly remember the stories of heroism."