By Tim Gardner
The Avery County Historical Museum recently received a special donation for its military room from part-time Linville resident and noted physician emeritus James (Jim) Wood, who treated many High Country residents during his 50-year medical career.
Accompanied by his wife, Ann, a retired nurse, and grandson, Reeves Crafton, Wood presented a large, framed, blood-stained Viet Cong battle flag to Museum Director Aneda Johnson and two of its volunteers, Claudia McGough and Carolyn Davis, for permanent display in the Museum.
Wood, who served as an Air Force flight surgeon during the Vietnam War, said the handmade flag was given to him by a fellow-doctor in 1969 and was removed from a battle between United States and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in Pleiku, located in the highlands of central Vietnam.
The city has a hospital, a commercial airfield and several air bases that were of much strategic importance during the later stages of the Vietnam War (early 1960s–1975).
The blood stain on the flag was of a Vietcong solider killed in the battle. The Viet Cong (in full Viet Nam Cong San) were an English-Vietnamese Communists Guerrilla War Force that, with the support of the North Vietnamese Army, fought against South Vietnam (late 1950s–1975) and the United States (early 1960s–1973).
“I’m most happy to have donated the flag to the Avery Historical Museum, Wood stated. “I believe there will be much interest in it, especially because there are so many from Avery County and other places who will tour the museum who are Vietnam War veterans as well as wives and other family
members of its veterans who have direct ties to it. And anyone else who is interested in the United States Military in general should appreciate it, too.”
“The Avery County Museum is honored to receive this flag that reminds all of the sacrifices of the American soldiers during the Vietnam War,” said Johnson. “On behalf of our museum’s Board of Directors, volunteers and county officials, I extend deepest appreciation to Doctor Wood for donating
Doctor and Mrs. Wood and Crafton also toured the museum after donating the flag and then the Veterans Monument on the Avery County Square. Doctor Wood gave both high compliments.
“The Avery County Historical Museum is truly a treasure for all the county’s natives, residents and visitors and its staff does a great job with its exhibits, providing tours and sharing county history,” he said. “Also, the veterans’ monument with the names of all veterans from the county who served our
nation during war, flags from all military branches and its beautiful gardens are a treat to visit. All the museum, county officials and Avery’s citizens can take tremendous pride to have such a good museum and veterans’ monument and gardens.”
Wood is a nationally, and even internationally known physician, as besides being a flight surgeon, he doctored in several foreign countries and also holds the milestone distinction of being an on-call emergency physician for former United States President Lyndon Johnson. While Wood was stationed at the 12th (Twelfth) Air Force Headquarters in Waco, Texas, several times when the “Air Force One” airplane with President Johnson and his entourage aboard landed in Austin, Texas, Wood was also flown there to help the president and any of his entourage, which mainly consisted of Secret Service agents guarding the president, with any medical problems they might have.
President Johnson, and his wife, Claudia (Lady Bird) Taylor Johnson, were both natives of Texas. He was from Stonewall and Mrs. Johnson was from Karnack. Doctor Wood noted that sometimes Mrs. Johnson would fly with the president to Austin, whether on business or just to return to their home state and sometimes, the small, rural towns where they were raised. Stonewall was only 55 miles from Austin and Karnack is around 297 miles away. Both had populations of less than 400 people then.
Wood received several military decorations and medals for his outstanding service to our great nation, including: Air Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.
Wood attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and at Chattanooga and then earned his medical degree from its School of Medicine in Memphis.
After his discharge from the Air Force, in which he earned the rank of Captain, Wood was a resident in general surgery for one year at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and then for three years in the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialty at The University of Tennessee College of Medicine, also in Memphis. He also served in an Otolaryngology Residency at the College of Medicine there. Otolaryngology is the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck.
Wood next practiced medicine at five hospitals in the Johnson City- Elizabethton, Tennessee area in the ear, nose and throat specialty, including Johnson City Specialty, where he served as Chairman of the Board; North Side; Johnson City Medical Center; Sycamore Shoals; and part-time from 2008-2016 at the James H. Quillen Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital at Mountain Home.
Wood is a founder of the Johnson City Ear, Nose and Throat Associates Clinic, Johnson City Eye and Ear Hospital as well as the Watauga Hearing Conservation there.
Wood estimated that he treated several hundred High Country residents while he doctored in Johnson City and Elizabethton.
He and Ann have also done mission work in Honduras, along with several fellow-members from their church–First Presbyterian of Johnson City—and various other medical professionals. They medically treated many of that nation’s citizens and also helped build homes there and taught many Honduran children about the Bible and academic subjects.
Wood’s civic service is extensive. He has served on the Board of Directors at Lees McRae College, the Grandfather Home for Children and the Holston Presbyterian Camp–all in Banner Elk — as well as for Baysmount Retirement Center of Kingsport, Tennessee. He also served as a Commissioner of the Johnson City Housing Authority from 1981 to 2000 and two terms as a Planning Board Commissioner there (1978 to 1981 and 1990 to 1993).
A book detailing Wood’s medical career and life, written by High Country Press journalist Tim Gardner, is scheduled to be released in the next few months. Further details about the book will soon be published by High Country Press.
Information about the Avery County Historical Museum can be obtained in person at the Avery County Historical Society and Museum, 1829 Shultz Circle, Newland, NC 28657; by calling its office at (828) 733-7111; via email ([email protected]); logging onto its web site at: averycountymuseum.org; or on Avery’s Genealogy Society’s Social Media Facebook page (facebook.com/AveryCountyGenealogySociety).
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