Bob Dollar said Jason Nix was an ordinary man, the kind who goes about his work and lives humbly and without much fanfare or attention.
That’s how Jason would have it. He was a World War II hero, but outside his family, few knew it because even within his family he didn’t say much about the war. As many of that war’s veterans, only in recent times have they opened up about their experiences.
Jason grew up on a two-horse farm in Forsyth County, but near Gainesville. He helped his father, A.E. Nix, grow crops and sharpen plows in their blacksmith shop. They had the first chicken houses in the area. His father read the Bible to him every night and made sure he finished the old Chestatee High School.
Two days after the tornado of 1936, he took the half-day wagon ride to Gainesville to help clean up. He and his father took bodies from the old Downey Hospital to cemeteries off White Sulphur Road.
Jason left home for the first time Jan. 1, 1943, to join the Army. Having grown up hunting, he was an expert marksman, reminiscent of the more famous Sgt. Alvin York, the country boy who, as Jason did, taught city boys who had never shot a gun or built a fire. Jason rose to sergeant in Patton’s Third Army.
In March 1945, Germans had pinned downed two platoons of his company. As squad leader Sgt. Nix moved ahead and killed a German tank commander, then climbed atop the tank and disabled it by throwing grenades inside. That led to a successful assault on the German position by allied forces.
For that act of bravery, Nix earned a Silver Star with oak leaf cluster. He also had been with the troops at Normandy and earned a Purple Heart for wounds that left permanent scars, along with four bronze stars and other medals.
Will Nix, his son, believes his father had post-traumatic stress disorder, common among today’s war veterans. He would read about the war, but avoided talking about it or watching war movies. He loved the movie “Forrest Gump,” but wouldn’t watch the war scenes.
When the war ended, he learned automobile mechanics, and that’s where Bob Dollar comes in. He worked for Dollar Carburetor and Electric in Gainesville for 45 years, rarely missing a day. He would work through vacations. When his mother died on a weekend, Jason still came to work on Monday, worked part of the day of the funeral and was back to work the next day.
“That’s the kind of dedicated employee he was,” Dollar said. “He was reliable, honorable, honest ... humble.” Fellow employees loved him, and he became known around town as “the carburetor man.”
Jason Nix was very independent, paid for things in cash and never borrowed money, Dollar said. He taught those values to his children, too, Will Nix said. He remembers his father getting him a savings account at First Federal Savings and Loan at 6 years old. “He instilled in us to save a few dollars every week,” he said.
A daughter, Caroline Williamson, said she learned a strong work ethic from her father.
“Honesty and fairness were what he preached to us all the time,” she said.
Jason Nix didn’t watch much television, but read a lot. He spent a lot of time in the woods on their farm or working in the garden. He had a mule named Tom that he plowed with for years until he finally brought a tiller.
As Bob Dollar says, he was an ordinary man who did his duty, whether in service to his country, his job, his church, Liberty Baptist, or in the home. Recognition of his kind usually doesn’t come until after they die.
But Jason Nix wouldn’t have it any other way; in fact, might have been embarrassed about it while he was alive. When he died at age 92 April 11, he and his wife, Josephine Whitmire Nix, had been married 66 years.
An ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.