Civil War history came easy to Brandon man
James B. Hayward oozed history. His family had lived it, told him about it and he absorbed it.
He had relatives who fought in the Civil War on both the Confederate and Union sides. His thirst for that period of history was insatiable.
“He had a strong link to that,” said his longtime friend Mike Herring, commanding officer of the Gen. Jubal A. Early Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 556. “He could go on and on about what this person did. It was really remarkable.”
Hayward, who lived in Brandon, died Sunday. He was 82.
Hayward was born in Plant City and heard the stories of his ancestors around the family dinner table and porches.
His maternal great-great-grandfather was a private in Florida's Confederate cavalry and was among 30 ancestors who took a rebel stand.
But his paternal great-grandfather served as a private in the Missouri Home Guards, and many of Hayward's relatives marched to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, including distant kinsman Ulysses S. Grant.
Hayward was camp commander for the John T. Lesley Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1282 for many years. When the chapter ceased operation last year, he became a member of the Gen. Jubal A. Early Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 556.
He also organized the first chapter of the Sons of The Union Veterans of the Civil War in the state in 1995 and was its leader from 1997 until 2003.
He was passionate about Civil War history and lobbied against the Hillsborough County Commission's decision in the early 1990s to change the county seal and remove a Confederate Battle flag emblem, Herring said.
He later was a financial contributor to Confederate Memorial Park, where a large Confederate Battle flag flies at the intersection of Interstate 4 and Interstate 75.
In a 2003 Tampa Tribune interview, Hayward said he wasn't interested in refighting the Civil War.
"My interest is promoting the history and heritage of the soldiers of both sides,” Hayward said. “My families fought for a cause they both believed in."
"I can't change history," he said at the time of the 2003 interview. "But at least I can be kind to it."
Hayward had a passion besides history. He served in the U.S. Army 11th Airborne Division. He also served in the United State Air Force Reserves, United States Army Reserves and the Florida National Guard.
Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. Friday at Stowers Funeral Home, 401 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, with interment following at Oaklawn Cemetery, 1900 N. Wheeler St., Plant City.