Colonel Paul J. Leming, Jr., USAF (ret.), passed away at the age of 90, in Bryan, Texas.
A time of come and go visitation and celebration, with food and beverages, will be held from 2pm to 6pm Saturday, March 28, 2020, at the Jackie Sherrill Letterman’s Lounge located in the Northeast Corner of Kyle Field in College Station.
Survivors: 2 sons, Paul and Richard (Ric) of Mexico, daughter Laura of Bryan, 4 grandsons, 3 great-grandchildren, all from Tacoma, WA
Dad was born in Russellville, AR to Paul, Sr. and Elizabeth Rose in 1929. He was a member of the Presbyterian church of Russellville, an avid hunter and fisherman and an excellent student and athlete.
Although the family moved often during Dad’s formative years, Beaumont, TX became their home as he began high school.
As a young man with promising athletic ability and excellent grades, Dad joined the Beaumont HS track team as a self-taught 440 Relay man and a Low/High hurdler. The coach handed my dad a book about hurdling and the rest is history…world history! Dad also played football for BHS and enjoyed success as a safety and a single-wing tailback. As a junior, Dad set the international record for the 200 yd. low hurdles, won the affection of my Mom, Betty Lou Thomason, by asking my Mom to go steady. She said YES!
Flying over hurdles wasn’t my Dad’s only flying interest. Dad secured a job as “grease monkey” at Beaumont’s municipal airport and my Dad’s payment for gassing and oiling planes was flying time. Flying time earned Dad his pilot’s license and he took every opportunity to fly, while earning excellent grades, playing football, excelling in track and courting my Mom. His senior year was much of the same, as point-man in the State meet in Austin, high and low hurdle events, and on his final run, he set the world record in the low hurdles!
College scholarships were abundant for Dad. Offers totaled 56 from all over the country, but Texas and Texas A&M were his major considerations, as he was not going anywhere without my Mom. Back in Beaumont, Dad called Frank Anderson, or Col. Andy and Col. Andy came to sign my Dad to Texas A&M the very next day.
During Dad’s Fish year, Mom was courted by the ZTAs from t.u. as she attended Lamar College in Beaumont. My Dad got wind and said, “No way,” and Dad and Mom eloped in Cold Spring, TX on January 26, 1949. Six weeks later, they told the folks and after the shock wore off, they moved Mom to College Station, where they lived in a small lean-to in Col. Andy’s backyard. My brothers, Paul III and Richard (Ric) were born in June ’50 and November ’52, respectively. The Leming, Sr(s) and the Thomason’s provided great support during Dad’s college years.
Dad’s track and academic careers were stellar. As a senior, and a mainstay of Col. Andy’s track dynasty, the Aggies won the Southwest Conference title two of three years; Dad won or placed in every hurdle event in his career, earned All SWC honors three times and was the 1950 SWC high hurdles Champion. Dad graduated number 3 out of a class of 1250 in 1952 on Kyle Field.
As an Aggie Distinguished Military Graduate, Dad received his commission into the Air Force and reported to Goodfellow AFB for pilot training. He graduated from pilot training first in his class. Pilot instructor assignments followed, which took the family of four all over. Georgia, Alaska, Webb AFB, TX and Connally AFB in Waco. In 1961, his only daughter, Laura was born. She’s the first girl in 75 years on the Leming side of the family. Celebration! As an instructor, his greatest contribution, on special assignment, was training pilots to fly with instruments alone.
Dad’s Air Force career becomes storied. In 1964, his assignment was to work and fly with the (ROC) Chinese Air Force in Taipei, Taiwan. The mission was to keep aging aircraft deployed and in fighting order, as hostilities with Communist China hovered. He also made many ancillary missions deemed classified. Dad called it “huggery-muggery!”
After Taiwan, Dad earned his master’s degree from the Joint Armed Forces (War) Staff College in Norfolk, VA., as an Allied Commander, which would serve him after his tour of duty in South East Asia.
In 1968, as part of a mission to assemble a squadron of elite pilots to fly the first iteration of the 469thTactical Air Command Fighter Squadron and the newest fighter jet; the F4-E Phantom II – with the Gatling gun to Korat AFB, Thailand. Against military regulations, Dad’s (and he was the maintenance officer) squadron painted the illustrious shark teeth on every jet that made the maiden flight. Keith Ferris, an Aggie and celebrated aviation artist, rode from Hickam AFB, HI to Korat AFB in SE Asia as my Dad’s GIB. The result is the legendary painting “Bad New for Uncle Ho,” which now resides outside the Joint Chief of Staff’s office in the Pentagon. The squadron set continuous records for hours flown, ordinances delivered and accuracy, as Gen. Vang Pao’s private air force; their mission was accomplished.
As an Allied Commander, Dad’s next assignment was at Patch Barracks, HQEUCOM, Stuttgart, Germany. As head of Berlin Operations during the height of the Cold War, Dad had many challenging assignments, including one that would have him spending 24 hours in a Turkish jail on the border near Ankara. He was able to swiftly talk himself and his two-man team members out of trouble. A beautiful and fun four years was spent in Germany.
In Dad’s next assignment at HQ Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB, VA, a coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt, invaded Israel in 1973, resulting in the Arab-Israeli war. The Israeli’s needed planes fast. In unprecedented action and speed, Dad led his team that coordinated all aspects of delivering F4s to Israel.
Dad’s last assignment brought him, Mom and Laura to Austin, TX; Bergstrom AFB as head of the Ready Team and eventually as Chief of Staff of 12thAF. Dad retired in July of 1982 after proudly serving his country for over 30 years. Highly decorated, he achieved the following:
- 8 Air Medals
- 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses
- Legion of Merit with 2 stars for Gallantry
- Air Force Commendation
- 151 combat missions
- 3 sets of Wings; US Air Force, Chinese AF and US Navy (for participation in an exchange program which included 17 take off and landings on aircraft carriers)
Dad and Mom remained in Austin for 23 years. Dad became the Deputy Director of State Budget and Policy Planning under Gov. Bill Clements. He was heavily involved and became President of the Capital City A&M Club. When Austin became just too much, Dad and Mom decided it was time to move to Aggieland. Land was chosen in Nantucket in S. College Station; their dream home was built and all was right with the Leming family participating in the Aggie lifestyle.
Dad was well known on campus with the Lettermen’s Association, as a Sports Museum/Hall of Champions volunteer for many years and served on several boards. In 1988 Dad was inducted into the Aggie Hall of Fame and served on the board to elect and induct future Aggie Hall of Famers.
It broke my Dad’s heart when my Mom passed in 2012, but he put one foot in front of the other for eight more years. He passed away peacefully with his daughter and his Visiting Angel Hillary Yeomans by his side. I lost my best friend at 2:20am on 10/23/2019. Dad and Mom…you will forever be in my heart.