James, as I called him, was born in a holler in W Virginia, to Nancy Prevento. Living in the coal mines, many families took children to raise as life was hard, He was soon adopted to Mae and Lennard Powell, living in Grundy, VA. His father worked in the coal mines, and knew & had many skills. They soon moved to Sweetwater, TN before coming to Fort Pierce, FL. Because his mother, was dissatisfied and liked moving – he changed schools a lot. He was a big kid for his age (not tall) he’d tell the school he was in a grade 1 or 2 years higher than he actually was – you know records didn’t’ travel so fast then, especially in those hills. They moved to FP and his dad was a carpenter and had a filling station and also built and remodeled, that’s how he learned many of his own skills. They attended church of Christ across from Butterfields Drugs where he helped build, even at a young age, pushing a wheel barrow. A slight secret tho: many folks around Fort Pierce thought they went to school with him – probably because he was nearly the same age or had been around town for so long…… they didn’t – when the school stories started, he’d have the biggest grin, never letting on that he hadn’t finished school, but many years later with a GED, that he needed for another job. When it was required to have a Police Law Enforcement Standards Certificate, he was grandfathered, however still chose to attend the academy after being appointed Chief of Police.
Prior to his career, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving in the 7th Calvary Division, and was honorably discharged. The home joke was that he was so old, he rode with General Custer. He was a Korean Combat War Veteran, from 1951 – 1955. He wanted to go to jump school, but had a weak eye. He was put on a ship - and sent to Korea. The short story being he had little training, and young men were needed on the front line, and that’s where he was sent. He was blessed to have an injury and sent to Japan. He made it home only re-enlist and was assigned as an MP and bodyguard to a General. He really enjoyed the law enforcement and would later pursue this. He received a Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal w/3 Bronze Service Stars, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and a Good Conduct Medal.
He had worked for Maule Industries, a concrete plant, starting as a concrete mix truck driver – the best job, he said he ever had. He’d say many a times “yes siree”, no responsibility, you’d clock in & go home, eating 2 whoppers a day (his claim to fame back then). He was a dedicated employee though working his way up to managing it. His heart was really in law enforcement, getting a taste of it as an MP, while serving in the United States Army. He was appointed by the Justice of Peace, Evan Costopolous to the office of Constable for St Lucie Co. and later elected. He had the most respect for Lionell Broxton, his deputy. The duo fought crime of the day, the likes of moonshine stills, Bolita tickets, gambling & riots. He held the office from 1962 thru 1973.
James (Bo) was a sheriff deputy for a while, and was a special investigator for the Secretary of State Office of Florida from 1973 thru 1978. He had a partnership in Fair & Powell Construction. He had both jobs until being appointed by the City Commission in 1978 – 1987, as Chief of Police of Fort Pierce. He took great pride in building up the department, making it state of the art, and trying to instill pride. That job did not come without much heartache losing some great dedicated officers. He was never a sit at the desk type guy, his passion was law enforcement- taking a hands-on approach and would not have asked anything of his officers, he wouldn’t have done himself. Often, we’d pass them in the car and he’d say – “there’s our boys”. Many of “his” officers and friends are gone – retired, moved, or also passed. I could go on how he cared for them, but trying to shorten up ……… it wasn’t about a job to him! While serving as Chief of Police, he also served as Assistant City Manager, until becoming full time City Manager in 1987 – 1995, when he retired. He enjoyed this position also, as he had an uncanny ability to solve problems. He loved every position and enjoyed people - all without a lot of formal training. His training was the school of “Hard Knocks” - difficult lessons from growing up in the coal mines of VA & WVA. He took great pride in the fact, that retiring in 1995, he left the city with a healthy surplus.
Bo enjoyed serving in various and many civic organizations, not just placing membership. Among them in no order – Florida JCs, Fraternal Order of Police, Chairman for March of Dimes, Kiwanas Club, Moose Club, United Way, Ft Pierce Masonic Lodge, and Amara Shrine Club. However short, because they moved a lot, he counted the scouts as a beginning to his law enforcement career – still saving his kerchief, reciting the creed to be a help and was honest as the day is long.
He had many side interests – among them being an avid race fan, being a racecar driver himself while his girls were young. Some may recall the old short track at Angle Road & Metzger Rd. By arial view, you can still see and make it out. He raced at Daytona on the beach before they built the big speedway. He used to say “We raced & tore up those cars every weekend & fixed em’ up during the week” – only to race again. In later years, instead of the race track, it was car shows and tinkering on his corvette that filled hours.
He was an avid Racquetball player – he liked it because he felt he could get a good workout without spending a great deal of time. He’d come home after beating some of his besties – those like Barrie Reed, Bob Norton, Hal Roberts, and Charlie Hedge. A few others,… some younger fellas tried to beat the old guy with their power and fast serves………….. he couldn’t wait to come tell me how he’d turn the tables with his secret weapon. You see, he was a ping pong champ from way back in the old Community Center days and he had the uncanny ability to know where & how the ball would land, hit a certain way –it’s not in the power or speed. This also included a joy to play pool. He knew his opponent’s weakness…………. In all he did.
James was a dedicated runner. He had a few marathons, half or 10Ks under his belt. Later he found out he could get as much benefit by walking. To his surprise one day, in the mountains, he was chased by a black bear – he was ready to roll under a near by car when the bear left the road for the woods.
A life event that most do not know, he needed his birth certificate when he volunteered and enlisted in the Army. It was only then he discovered he was adopted, however not legally as everyone was poor in the coal mines. He never answered roll call, so he legally changed his name. It wasn’t until 1986, his blood kin family found him. It was surreal, like always knowing them. He still has a 99 year old uncle living in VA, the only one left of 15.
He enjoyed traveling, however not liking the tourist attractions – he focused on seeing the towns or people – we were more a like in that way, never having to be entertained. We enjoyed the simple life & surroundings best. He loved tinkering & fixing, however long, the honey-do list, he came up with some pretty ingenious ways to repair. He was a “do it yourself” guy. He never complained about keeping the yard up or mowing, it gave him pleasure & the opportunity to think on & make decisions.
Among his biggest disappointments was his inability to spell well. He skipped many grades, as told before and never mastered that skill. He usually had a secretary & kept a speller – he still considered it a short coming all the more.
Bo - is what most people called him. How did that come about – well, he used to hang out and ride motorcycles with a friend, whom I can’t recall his name. This fella was on the thin side and back then the motorcycles were kick start. People teased him saying he looked like a yo-yo, so the duo became known as Yo-Yo and Bo-Bo – later the ladies shortened it to Bo, it suited him and he liked it. I however, was not allowed to call an elder by any nickname or first name, it was tabu and disrespectful, so I’ve always called him by his given name. He’s been known by many names and he was good with all of them until I placed a birthday greeting in the paper – among those were James, Bo, Jimmy, Jim, Papa, Granddaddy, Chief – When you hear any of those names being referred to him, take one and smile. The Lord will call him Servant and in my heart, He’ll also say “Well Done”.
My fella lived a good life – not necessarily the way some would consider good – he was a simple guy, honest and grew up not only during the depression but the coal mines – what did’t kill ya, made ya strong. He stayed practical, conservative, and humble.
While not imposing his beliefs on anyone, he was a dedicated Christian, obeying the Gospel when he was 8 years old. He prayed for his officers and also over most decisions he had to make. His Bible is worn and it’s been glued several times – I eventually got him a cover just to keep the pages in order. He read it every day, in chronological order but always flipping back to reference. Even the days we were leaving to travel somewhere, he would not get on the road without reading his 2 or 3 chapters.
In closing, I knew him in a much different way than most, married on Valentines Day 1980, I was blessed to be called his wife.
I will miss him as well as his daughters, Sherry A. Moye of Port St. Lucie, FL, Paula E. Drawdy of New Hampshire and Tammie (Chuck) McClellan of Oviedo, FL; grandchildren, Matthew (Tiffany) McGlynn, Heather (Charles) Rivera, Kevin (Brittany) McGlynn, James (Kristie) Daniel Drawdy, Jessica McClellan, Katelyn McClellan, and Luke McClellan; and 13 great-grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Fort Pierce Police Department Explorers, Humane Society of St. Lucie County or to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 from 10:00-11:00 AM with a service to follow at 11:00 AM at Haisley Funeral Home, Fort Pierce. Burial will take place on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 2:30 PM at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery, Mims, Florida.