Alabama Academy of Honor

William James Rushton, Jr.

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1975.

Colonel William James Rushton, a life insurance executive and the long-time civilian chief of the Birmingham Ordnance District, was born on July 10, 1900, in Birmingham.

After graduating in 1921 from Washington and Lee University, he went to work for the Birmingham Ice and Cold Storage Company, and by 1932, had risen from the post of assistant manager to the presidency of the company. Five years later, he entered the insurance business as the president of Protective Life. He held that position until 1967, when he became the chairman of the board.

A member of the Army Reserve since 1926, Colonel Rushton was called up for active duty in 1940 and summoned to Washington to help establish the Selective Service System. He remained there as a member of General Hershey's' staff for two years, and in 1942, returned to his home town as the commanding officer of the five-state Birmingham Ordnance District.

After his discharge in 1944, he continued his interest in ordnance work. Designated the civilian chief of the Birmingham District in 1946, he served until 1961, and in 1959, was honored for his outstanding contribution to national defense by the Secretary of the Army.

Meanwhile, his importance to the business community of Birmingham continued to grow. A director of the First National Bank since 1928, he served after the war on the boards of the Alabama Power Company, the Gulf Mobile & Ohio Railroad, and the Illinois Gulf Central Railroad. And he added a series of honors in the insurance field to the recognition he had already received for his work in the refrigeration business. He served as the director of the Life Insurance Association of America from 1955 to 1961, as a director of the Health Insurance Association after 1964, and as the Alabama vice president of the American Life Convention in 1953.

Despite the demands of his business career, Colonel Rushton always found time to work to benefit the community as a whole. For his years of service to the Jefferson County Community chest, he was made an honorary life member of its board of directors in 1958. And on the national level, he served during the 1960's on the Citizen's Committee of the United Community Campaigns of America, which coordinates the efforts of community chests all over the country.

A director of the Birmingham Council of the Boy Scouts for thirty years and a trustee of Agnes Scott college for ten, he served in 1954 as the chairman of the Alabama Selection Committee for the Rhodes Scholarships. He was also a trustee of the Children's Hospital, a director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, and a staunch supporter of the Southern Research Institute since its founding.

For his work in the Presbyterian Church, he was recognized in 1972 as Elder Emeritus of his congregation at First Presbyterian and was made an honorary Doctor of Humanities in 1959 by Southwestern University, a Presbyterian liberal arts college in Memphis.

Married to the former Elizabeth Perry in 1926, he had two children. He is now deceased.