Life After The Drummer Boy With J. Will Sims.htm




                                     JWILL H. SIMS




Jwill was so surprised when Ann and I called him on the phone. He thought
everyone in Minden has forgotten about him and the days his Mother drove
him to Mrs. Miller's home on Pearl Street to pose for the painting of the "Drummer
Boy".Old friends are getting reacquainted after all these years. We do not know
who the drummer boy of 1938 is.  Our drummer boy is Jwill Sims.

 This Drummer Boy story started the day Ben Hunter called to tell me Del Messer
Stout had volunteered to help proof read some stories on the Minden Memories site.

When Del saw the picture of the Drummer Boy she recalled her Mother's memories
of going to high school with Ben Earl Looney. She knew immediately  the boy
in the picture was Jwill. She and Jwill had been childhood friends. Some of you will
remember Del had been voted most beautiful girl around 1946/7 and homecoming queen in
1945. Don Braswell came home from the service to be her escort. She recalled how
handsome and how much more mature he looked in his uniform. Don's mother and
Ben Earl Looney were close friends.

                             Short biography of Ben Early Looney   

                                  By Judianne Braswell Myers                                        

This is a short biography of Ben Earl Looney written by Judianne Braswell Myers.
Earl Looney grew up in Yellow Pine, an old sawmill town south of Minden.
Lucille Looney, who became Mrs. Roy Miller, Sr. and lived on Pearl Street
in Minden.  She had many beautiful paintings by Earl in her home--many of
them pictures of camelias,, magnolias, and other beautiful flowers.  Mrs.
Miller grew camelias and had lovely ones.  Her son, Roy Miller,Jr. lived in
Minden also.  He was good friends with my brother, General Arnold Braswell.
Roy, Jr. died several years ago.  He had one daughter who lived in Minden
for a wile and worked at the Campbell law firm.  I don't know her married
name or if she still lives there.

The town no longer exists.  My mother was best friends with his sister,
Lucille Looney, who became Mrs. Roy Miller, Sr. and lived on Pearl Street
in Minden.  She had many beautiful paintings by Earl in her home--many of
them pictures of camelias,, magnolias, and other beautiful flowers.  Mrs.
Miller grew camelias and had lovely ones.  Her son, Roy Miller,Jr. lived in
Minden also.  He was good friends with my brother, General Arnold Braswell.
Roy, Jr. died several years ago.  He had one daughter who lived in Minden
for a wile and worked at the Campbell law firm.  I don't know her married
name or if she still lives there.

Earl built a small brick house off the Sibley Road in the "Coolie Bottom" swamp,
just north of the Madden plant and on the opposite of the road it was his studio.
The house is still there and occupied. he painted my portrait in about 1949. I have
four paintings including the portrait.

 Earl loved S. Louisiana, and built another home in Lafayette.  He was
commissioned to paint a large mural of Louisiana scenes in a mall there
many years ago.  I don't know if the mall is still there.  He also
published several books of his paintings.  He always visited us when he
came to town.  He thought a lot of my mother, who was very kind to him.
One of the paintings I have is one he gave to her--a picture of my maternal
grandmother's cut glass vase full of beautiful flowers.  

Judianne Braswell Myers graduated from M.H.S. in 1954. She was voted one of Minden's High School's prettiest girl's in 1954.



Jwill Sims was born in Minden, Webster parish, Louisiana on January 19, 1929 on Robert E. Lee's birthday. They moved to Henderson, Texas after he was born. His Dad worked in the oil fields. When they moved back to Minden Mr. Sims opened the mattress factory on the Sibley Road. Bobby Turner built the factory and home they lived in. He bought the property from Joe Miller, a prosperous cotton farmer. Mrs. Sims was a daughter of Andrew J.and FrancesW. Puckett. They were from Waldo - Magnolia, Arkansas. Jwill had a sister who married Johnny Campbell of Oklahoma.

He enjoyed playing in the band at Minden High school. He was the lead drummer boy when Earl Looney told Dwight Blake, the MHS band instructor that he wanted to do a painting of a drummer boy. Mr. Blake put Mr. Looney in touch with the Sims and arrangements were made for Jwill to pose at the home of Looney's sister, Mrs. Roy Miller, who lived on Pearl Street. Mrs. Sims drove her son to the home after school was out in the afternoon. When Ben Earl Looney returned to New York he mailed the finished sketch to Jwill Sims in a mailing tube. He still has it.

Mr. Looney used the same magazine stand when Jwill posed that was used in the prior painting of the Drummer Boy. He did not have a home of his own when he painted Jwill's portrait. He lived in the home of his sister. He built a beautiful stone art studio in Cooley Bottom on the Sibley road which was one large room with a cypress shake roof. Ben Earle Looney enlisted the help of Jwill Sims and his friends to help build his studio. Mr. Looney did not have a car at the time so a driveway was not needed.

Ben Earl gave art lessons to local residents in the parish. He also sold some of his art work. How many

Webster Parish homes might there be with a Looney original hanging on its wall?



Left to right: H. Ross Perot, Edna Lee Selby, Barbara "Babe" Kennon, Jwill H. Sims, Mary Alice Williams, and David Gleason.

J. Ross Perot was the candidate who ran for President against Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and President George Bush.

A few weeks ago Jwill made a trip back to Minden and enjoyed a visit with Ben Hunter. Off they went to the Neighborhood Museum to see the portrait of the famous Drummer Boy. They took a picture of Ben and Jwill standing on each side of the painting. All were amazed at the likeness of Jwill to the boy in the paining. It was an experience he will not soon forget. His trip back to Minden did not disappoint him.


I was born January 19, 1929 in a sawmill community ten miles north of Minden on the Lewisville Road.  Robert E. Lee was born on January 19 also, and I have always been proud to have been born on his birthday.  I always respected him for his high moral character, his integrity and his devotion to duty.  My father was employed at the sawmill where my grandfather, Andrew Puckett, was the sawyer.  I am the second of three children.  My brother, Winston H. Sims, passed away in 1981 at the age of 54.  My sister, Bonnie Sue, who married Johnny Campbell from Oklahoma, is still living and resides in North Carolina.
The country was in a depression, as you know, and my father moved us to Henderson, Texas, where he was employed in the oil fields which were opening up in that area.  We stayed in that area until 1935.  While there my father learned the mattress manufacturing business, and when we moved back to Minden in 1935, he built his business and our family home at 417 Sibley Road.  He bought five lots from Mr. Joe Miller, who was a member of a pioneer family in the area.  Mr. Bobby Turner, of Turner Bros. Lumber Co., built the buildings and carried the mortgage for my dad.
I attended Minden schools with the exception of my senior year.  While in the school I participated in the acapella choir and the band.  I was lead drummer in the band.  I remember Mr. and Mrs. Blake and how much I appreciated their efforts with the band.  I always enjoyed the band concerts in the park during the summer when families would come and sit on benches and listen to us play.  That time is no more because people are now closed up in air-conditioned homes watching TV.
During my junior year I talked to my parents about going to Searcy, Arkansas, where Harding University is located, and completing my senior year at their academy and then attending the university.  They agreed to this and I graduated from the academy as valedictorian and received a two-year scholarship to the university.  Harding is affiliated with the Church of Christ and, at the time, I desired to become a minister for the church.  I majored in history and Bible.  During my second year there I met and became engaged to Elizabeth Russell of Dallas.  We decided that I would go back to Minden and complete my B. A. at Ruston, drivng back and forth.  Liz went home to Dallas and, while working for Southwestern Bell, also took courses at SMU night school.  When the Korean War started in June of 1950, Liz and I decided to marry and did so on September 2, 1950.  I continued in school and she worked at the La. Ordnance Plant in the security department.  I finished my degree work at La. Tech in July, 1951.  I had a student deferment from the draft but as soon as I graduated I was reclassified 1A.  I had already decided to enlist in the air force, and when I received my orders to report for a physical, I went to Shreveport and enlisted.  I had always wanted to be a pilot but they were not accepting married men for flight training at that time, so I requested that I receive training to work in some field related directly to flying.  I was sent to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, where I went through the Control Tower Operator school and then went to the Ground Controlled Approach school.  As a GCA operator I was trained to land planes with radar by talking the pilots in to a landing.  My first duty station was at Barksdale Air Force Base, where I served from July, 1952 to April, 1953, when I received orders to go to Korea.  I was sent to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia, in May for advanced combat training and then reported to Camp Stoneman in San Francisco in June, 1953.  Liz went with me out there and I boarded ship for Japan and then, subsequent to that, Korea.  I was at an air base between Pusan and Taegu, Korea where we had the 17th Bomb Wing.  These were World War II bombers which were used for night interdiction.  They began flying at sundown and continued until sunup.  We vectored them out on their missions and then brought them back in on radar. 
I located a Church of Christ in Pusan.  This was a congregation composed of Korean refugees from North Korea.  On the Sundays that I did not have duty I would meet with them for worship services.  I learned some Korean and they learned some English, and I was able to teach to them from the scriptures.
I came back to the United States in 1954 and was stationed at McGuire Air Force Base at Trenton, New Jersey, until my discharge in November, 1955.
Liz and I moved to Dallas in January, 1956, where I began work as a Field Representative with General Motors Acceptance Corporation.  I held various positions with them as a District Representative with GMAC Tyler, as a Credit Representative at GMAC Texarkana and finally, as a Credit Manager with GMAC Dallas, where I retired January, 1990, after 34 years.
We have four children. Jwill II born January 19, 1958, Shannon (a daughter) born July 21, 1960, Lisa born May 1, 1961, and Russell born August 22, 1964.  Jwill II is married to the former Rebecca Rowlett of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Shannon is married to Scott Messick of Rowlett, Texas.  Lisa is married to David Beaird of Tyler.  Russell is married to the former Callie Parry of Mesquite. Jwill III is married to the former Andi King of Maryville, Louisiana.  Lisa is the sole surviving member of Liz's brother's family.  Her father, mother, sister and two brothers were killed in a plane crash in Taos, New Mexico.  Liz only had one sibling.  He was an M. D. in Mesquite, Texas, at the time of his death.  They had asked us to take their children in the event something happened to them.  Lisa was not with them at the time of their deaths.  We have 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild at the present.
I have never preached as a located minister even though I am an ordained minister of the Church of Christ.  I have served as a deacon at churches in Athens, Tx., Dallas, Tx., Texarkana, Tx., and as an elder at Walnut Street Church of Christ in Texarkana and at the Mesquite, Tx., Church of Christ.  I am authorized to perform baptisms, marriages, weddings and funerals.  I did preach during the summer at Bernice, Louisiana, during my college days, and I have preached special sermons on occasions when requested to do so.  I baptized all of my children and performed their marriage ceremonies.  One of the sadist duties for me was conducting the funeral for the stillborn son of Russell and his wife.  I was honored to perform the marriage ceremony for my oldest grandson, Jwill III and his wife on March 1, 2003.
My father operated the Sims Mattress Company for 44 years and retired at the age of 76 in 1979.  He and my mother bought a home on Tanglewood Drive just off the Lewisville Road, only a few miles from where I was born.  They lived there until 1987 when they were no longer able to live and take care of themselves.  I brought them to Mesquite that year and my dad lived until November, 1989, when he passed away.  My mother lived until May, 1991, when she passed away.  I brought both of them back to Minden and buried them in a family plot in the old Minden Cemetery where my mother's father and mother, Andrew and Nita Puckett, and my sister's son and one daughter are also buried.  My cousin, Morris Simms, died and was buried in Minden in 2003.  My only other relative still in Minden is Linda Hunter, nee Harkness, whose mother, Alta Harkness, nee Upchurch, was my cousin on my mother's side.
Liz and I have lived in Mesquite since 1980 and two of our children, Shannon and Russell, live here.  Jwill II lives in Shreveport and Lisa lives in Tyler.  God has blessd us richly with children and grandchildren.
I forgot to tell you about my name and how I got it.  When I was born my grandmother Puckett wanted to name me after J. Will Henley, who was a preacher for the Church of Christ.  He lived in northeastern Arkansas.  The "J." in his name did not stand for anything so they just wrote it all together and it has been a source of constant questions during my life.  It should actually be written as J'will, but it wasn't written that way originally, so I just write it the way I have always written it...rather unique I think.  My first son was born on my birthday and his first son was born on January 11.  I have researched the Henley family.  They came from Stratford-on-Avon, England.  On one of our trips to England we visited there and found a street named Henley.  I feel like I am a part of that family too.


This is a recent picture of the drummer boy painting as it looks today.

Jwill H. Sims

Recently Rev. Sims and his wife, Liz, traveled to Minden to see the portrait of the Drummer Boy again.

He remembered Mr. Looney and his sisters as being such nice people.

Ben Hunter and Rev. Sims in front of the Drummer Boy painting

This photograph was taken when Jwill was in Korea. Read his bio for more information.

Jwill married Elizabeth "Liz" Russell of Dallas,Texas. Theycourted on this swing in 1948 at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.


Jwill joined the air force in 1951 was in Air Craft Landing Ground Control Approved


KOREA -1953


          Elizabeth "Liz" and Jwill make a handsome couple


Trenton, New Jersey McGuire Air Force Base 1954-1955                                                                                                 

Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas

This was taken in Texarkana, TX at the Centennial Celebration Circa 1972

The Parthenon - Athens Greece, 1980

Enroute to Hawaii 1981

Hawaii - 1981

Switzerland -1987

Texarkana, Texas

First Five grandchildren. Jwill, an ordained Church of Christ minister, performed the wedding ceremony (uniting the boy on the far left, Jwill III) for the wedding on March 1, 2003,

The land for the Church of Christ on the Sibley Roadin Minden was donated the Jwill's Dad who also owned the Sims Mattress factory. Today the church is located where the home of the Watkins family was once locateed.


The Sims Family in Tyler, Texas

Rev. Jwill and Liz Sims