James Leslie Has Lived A Life of Service To The Community

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of African-Americans, not only in our world, country, state, but also in our community. Today, we recognize the achievements of James Leslie, who is well-known in the community for his work with the American Red Cross, Long Term Recovery Group, Auxiliary Probation Officer, SCDJJ, and Volunteer Veteran’s Honor Guard. This particular Honor Guard participated in 251 military burials in the Pee Dee Area in 2019.

Born in New York City, where he started his early education, James Leslie came to South Carolina at the age 13 and lived with his uncle. Leslie, the son of Johnny McCoy of Little Rock and Fannie Leslie of Minturn, graduated from Latimer High School and his dream was to join the U.S. Air Force. His first trip to Florence, South Carolina, was to the recruiter’s office to join the U.S. Air Force.
At that time the U.S. Air Force was 10 years old, and “very selective” in who joined. Leslie was told his test score was not high enough. Unfortunately, he did not get in; therefore, he gave up and went back to New York. In 1963, Leslie was getting close to the age to get drafted. Some of his co-workers had joined the National Guard to avoid this fate, so he asked them about what the National Guard entailed and how to get in. He went to an armory at 34th Street and Park Avenue during his lunch hour to join. He took the same test and scored higher. He was told to come back on Tuesday to be sworn in, which he did.
The 22-year-old Leslie was sworn in as a member of the first Battalion of the 71st Infantry of the New York Army National Guard. Little did he know, this was a news-making event. He was the only African-American man in the 900-man 71st Infantry.
On his way to work the next day, he saw an article in the New York Herald Tribune on Page 3 about the only African-American man in this Infantry. He soon realized that he was that man. He later got telephone calls from family and friends stating that he was in Jet Magazine and a black newspaper called The Amsterdam News.
James later joined the New York State Air National Guard.
While in the Air National Guard, he was a Telecommunications Specialist and First Sergeant in the Air Transportation Unit. He was activated and served during the Gulf War in 1990-1991. He also served in many other humanitarian airlift missions. He retired in 1994 as a Master Sergeant. He spent a total of 23 years in the military.
Leslie has also had an extensive career in the law enforcement. He studied Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Long Island University, and the Criminal Justice Academy in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He started out working at the New York State Department of Corrections and later became an investigator in the New York State Inspector General’s Office. He retired as a senior investigator.
Leslie grew tired of the snow and moved to Virginia, where he became a Special Agent at the Commonwealth of Virginia Inspector’s Office. While in Virginia, he helped solve a 10-year old unsolved murder. He was assigned to the Commonwealth of Virginia FBI Undercover Drug Task Force. He retired from there in 2002 after having worked there seven years. He also coordinated a Narcotic Canine Unit in the Southeastern section of the State of Virginia.
From Virginia, he returned to South Carolina and now lives in Latta, where he is well-known for his work with the American Red Cross and the Florence, SC Veterans Honor Guard.
He has also serves as an Auxiliary Probation Officer for the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and as an Arbitrator for the Fourth Circuit.
Last, but not least, James Leslie’s passion is traveling and deep-sea fishing.