Unknown Sailor

S1c James Leon Bridges

James Leon Bridges was the second oldest of eight children of Ulysses Bridges, an insurance agent, and Ella Raley Bridges, a homemaker.

He was born Nov. 18, 1916 and graduated from Central High in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was a fullback on the school’s undefeated 1935 football team. His mother died in May 1937.

Mr. Bridges worked at a drug store next to the Fountain City Beauty Shop, where his girlfriend, Azalee Sharp, was a beauty operator. He then moved on to clerical work at the Knox County Water Co. The 1940 Census said he worked 52 weeks there in 1939 and earned $780.

He enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 4, 1940, and was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

His stepmother, Roxie, said he’d been saving money to get married, and the family had hoped he would be home for a visit that Christmas.

Upon hearing of his death, a former water company employee, Thomas Mize, said young Bridges was well-liked and “had a jolly word for everybody.”

“Jim was a big, breezy sort of fellow,” Mize told a reporter.

Another former Central High student, Gordon Blane King, also died on the Arizona. He was three years younger than Mr. Bridges. There’s no indication they knew each other before they ended up on the same battleship, though Mr. King was a big football fan and perhaps knew of the gridiron exploits of Mr. Bridges.

Sources: Knoxville (Tennessee) News-Sentinel; Census; Navy muster roll; Tennessee death certificate; Kentucky birth index. Navy photo. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM