Jack — as he is known to everyone in Bell County — turns 94 on Sept. 21.
With that in mind, Bell County Commissioners Court took the opportunity earlier this week to proclaim his birthday Sept. 21 2018 as Colonel John W. Oliver, Jr. Day in Bell County.
Jack is a 65-Year Mason and Member of Salado Masonic Lodge #296 in Salado, Texas.
Bell County Judge Jon Burrows declared the following before he and County Commissioners Russell Schneider, (Prec. 1), Tim Brown (Prec. 2), Bill Schumann (Prec. 3) and John Fisher (Prec. 4) affixed their signatures to the proclamation:
“WHEREAS, it has been brought to the attention of our office that Retired Precinct Four County Commission Colonel Jack Oliver is celebrating another birthday, in a long, long, long history of celebrating birthdays, in fact his 94th birthday on September 21st, and
“WHEREAS, Colonel Oliver, has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to us all with his good humor, dynamic personality, love of Bell County and his country, and
“WHEREAS, Bell County, the Bell County Commissioners Court, the entire Central Texas area, and the U.S. Army Air Corps/ U.S. Air Force would simply not be the same without the service and contributions of Colonel Jack Oliver, and
“WHEREAS, Bell County wishes to publically recognize and thank JACK for his service and contributions to Bell County as a whole and the Commissioners Court in particular, and to wish him well on the occasion of his 94th birthday;
“NOW THEREFORE, I, JON H. BURROWS, County Judge of Bell County, Texas, and the entire Commissioners Court proclaim Friday, September 21, 2018 as “Colonel Jack Oliver Day in Bell County, Texas” in honor of his birthday, and we join his legions of friends in celebrating this great event.”
Jack was raised on the 192 acre Oliver farm four miles east of Belton that was given to his father by Uncle Gus who built a home for his nephew as a wedding present. Jack’s mother, Elizabeth Miller Oliver was the daughter of a Katy MKT Railroad fireman and engineer.
Jack says his upbringing was typical of any farm boy in the 1930s. “I milked four cows every morning and evening to get the skimmed milk for my Hampshire hogs,” he recalls.
His dad turned over the operations of the small farm to Jack when he was 12 years old and Oliver Sr. was given command of the CCC Camp at Mother Neff Park near McGregor.
He ran the farm throughout high school ‘36-40. Oliver received the “principal” appointment to West Point in 1940 but had a ruptured appendix and nearly died (out of bodycoma). He could not accept the appointment. The next year 1941 he received the principal appointment to the Naval Academy. Upon taking the physical he found you had to be 5’6”.
Anyone who knows him, knows that Jack had to stretch to get 5’4”.
So instead, he went to Texas A&M in the spring of 1942, joined the Aggie Corps, Company E, Coast Artillery, Bissel Hall, starting a rough year as an aggie freshman.
After that first semester, Jack was offered an opportunity to go to the “military” replacement center in Houston, Texas and take the entrance exams for an Air Corps flying cadet.
He passed all three as Pilot, Navigator and Bombardier.
Even though Jack had over 30 hours in pilot training at Coulter Field east of Bryan, Texas, he was only offered a chance to go to Navigation training. He accepted and went to the first Bombardier-Navigator cadet class at Concho Field, San Angelo, Texas in March 1943. The Air Corps left him at A&M to finish the winter semester after enlisting on 22 November in the Air Corps.
Oliver finished the Bombardier-Navigator training and was assigned as a crew member on a B-24 for training as a combat crew Bombardier-Navigator, 2nd Lieutenant, at Alamagordo, New Mexico. The entire training group was reassigned to Charleston, SC to finish their overseas training.
On Jan. 1 1944, in Charleston, SC, Jack met his soon bride to be, Miriam Garrick. They were married before the end of the month on Jan, 30, 1944. A week later Jack left for overseas (ltaly) with his bomber crew.
In less than six months Jack flew 53 combat missions, one purple heart on May 16 1944, the second on June 30 1944, his 53rd mission. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross and many Air Medals.
He served 30 years active duty as a regular Air Force officer and retired to his GI farm in Texas in 1972. He served 12 years as Bell County Commissioner for Precinct 4, which included Killeen, Fort Hood and Salado.
In the late 1990s he inherited part of the old Oliver farm and moved there, setting the title to his autobiography Full Circle.
“I now own the house I was born in (under a rainbow) in 1924,” Oliver said.
Which is where he will celebrate his 94th birthday on Colonel Jack Oliver Day in Bell County.