By Don McAlavy: CNJ Columnist
While citizens across the nation pause this month to remember a myriad of individual reasons for Veterans Day, Neil S. Durham (now of Idalou, Texas, outside of Lubbock and formerly of Clovis) may be turning the pages of a diary he kept on Guadalcanal during World War II.
Yes, Durham kept a diary, but he put it aside because of the terrible war he help fight. Reconnaissance planes were important information gatherers of enemy positions, and Durham and others provided intelligence support. “We lost 22 pilots. They would go off on a mission and never return. They flew P-38s with cameras in the nose of the plane — they didn’t have any machines guns. The only armament was a pilot with a handgun.”
Durham was a Methodist, and found common ground with other denominations after the war subsided on the island.
From December 1940 to April 1942 Durham was employed by the Clovis News-Journal. From April 1942 to October 1945, Durham served in the Army Air Corps from Guadalcanal to the Philippines, earning five battle stars and was discharged after the war as an intelligence specialist.
After the war, Durham was an insurance agent. In 1949 Durham became the company’s manager, and in 1960 he became a partner in the firm and the name changed to Smith-Durham, Inc. In 1970 Durham became president of the firm upon the retirement of his partner. On Feb. 1, 1975 the firm’s name was changed to Durham and Kinyon, Inc. when Bill Kinyon became a partner. In May of 1979 Durham and Kinyon, Inc. celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Durham came to Clovis in December of 1940. He was born in Wellington, Texas, to Thomas and Rose Durham. Tom Durham was the well-known editor of the Curry County Times when it was published by Chick Taylor on East Grand.
Neil Durham married Yvette Kirkpatrick in 1958 and they have had one child, a daughter, Lynda.
Neil Durham was a good friend of mine as was his father, who helped me in the print shop as I was one of the young linotype operators in 1949 to 1952 until I got drafted into the Army.
“My mother was a Sunday school teacher,” Keith Durham said. “She installed that faith in me, she wrote letters to me all during that time I was in the war that encouraged me to keep the faith,” he said. “That was the big thing: If you do that, you will be all right. Maybe you might not come back, or maybe you will … but keep the faith,” she said. Neil Durham kept the faith.
Neil Durham is now 91 years old and living in Idalou.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: