The sister of 1st Lt. James R. Polkinghorne Jr., thanked Florida A&M University (FAMU) for renaming the FAMU Village student residence hall in her brother’s memory.
“This building will serve for many years as a lasting memory to my brother James,”
Maggie Polkinghorne Wilson told ROTC cadets, students, staff, administrators, alumni and elected officials gathered for the dedication ceremony on Friday. “On behalf of the Polkinghorne family, thank you; thank you for honoring my brother 1st Lt. James R. Polkinghorne, Jr.”
Polkinghorne had just completed his junior year at what was then Florida A&M College (FAMC) when in 1942 he enlisted in what was then the U.S. Army Air Force and graduated from Tuskegee Army Airfield with FAMU alumnus Roy Spencer. As a flight leader of his squadron, Polkinghorne and his 301st fighter group set off to Sezze, Italy, in 1944 when his plane went down during a combat flight and was never found.
“He gave his life at an early age. About a month and a half before his 23rd birthday, he was declared missing in action. A year later he was declared dead,” Wilson told the gathering. “He was the only boy out of six children. You could imagine it was such a loss to my parents.”
Wilson was five at the time and vaguely remembers her brother. She got to know him better by reading all of his letters he wrote to his mother and sisters.
Robinson said the rededication was long overdue. The original Polkinghorne Village, the two-story apartment complex for married students, was dedicated in October 1948. During homecoming that year, the 332nd Tuskegee airmen flew over FAMU to acknowledge Polkinghorne Village. In 2012, the apartments were demolished to build the 800-unit FAMU Village to accommodate the growing student population.
“You could tell he was a very loving person,” recalled Wilson. Before she spoke, the FAMC graduate received the President’s Award from President Larry Robinson, Ph.D.
A plaque at the site recognizing Lt. Polkinghorne was installed during Robinson’s inauguration festivities in 2018. A group of alumni had long lobbied for the residence hall to be renamed in honor of Polkinghorne.
“This is a really proud moment for us at FAMU,” Robinson said.