Judge Surprised By Story About His Dad





Too many people take important stories to the grave without sharing them with family and friends.

My father was in the NYPD.  And while he told me a lot of funny cop stories it was only because my grandmother had kept the front page of a 1946 edition of the Long Island Press that I learned that, while off duty at the movies with my mother, he happened on a robbery/homicide that led to a car chase though the streets of Queens and him shooting it out and capturing the bad guys.

I’m lucky that my Dad was still alive when I learned about his heroism so that we could talk about.

Unfortunately, Broward Judge John “Jay” Hurley Jr. did not find out about the incredible thing the senior John Hurley had done and what it meant to other veterans until after his Pop died.

You probably have seen Judge Hurley.  That’s because he is on TV almost daily as the judge those arrested first appear before.


Jay Hurley, on left, is frequently on TV.




What Judge Hurley did know was that his Dad was in the Army Air Corp where he flew bombers over Germany.  When he went back to the U.S., he trained other pilots.  After the war he spent a career flying for Delta.

All that and more were recounted at a memorial service.

Jay and his siblings spoke about Pop.

But a big surprise came when an elderly Black gentleman got up and asked to speak.

His name was Thaddeus Hamilton, a retired lieutenant colonel, and here is the story he told:

During the war he had been a Redtail also known as a Tuskegee Airman.

He was carrying a framed photo of the Tuskegee airmen, signed by the remaining members.

The WWII military was as Jim Crow as a Mississippi public school.  If that wasn’t bad enough,  the Redtails were  trained in Alabama and forced to endure all the indignities of racial segregation on-and-off the base.

Like the Southern so-called “Colored Schools” that got used books and supplies, the Redtails got secondhand equipment including planes.

How’s this for the ultimate insult?

During the war Alabama was the home to 16,000 German POW’s.  Many were trustees who earned a few bucks doing odd jobs.

The Germans were permitted to go into town where they were welcomed in restaurants and movie houses.  Meanwhile, African-American soldiers, who were fighting and dying fighting these same German soldiers, couldn’t go in those same restaurants and movie houses.

White Air Corps pilots saw themselves as the cream of the military crop. For many, the idea that blacks could or would do their job was both insulting and downright threatening.

It was in that atmosphere that White flight instructors stayed clear of training “Negro” pilots.

The exception was Captain John Hurley, the judge’s father.  He was the lead pilot trainer for the Tuskegee airmen.

Hurley had been a bomber pilot who, unscathed, had dodged Nazi flak in dozens of missions over Germany.

Make no bones about it, working with the Redtails meant a different kind of flak that now came from White American fly boys. In many respects it had to be more difficult than bombing Hamburg since it was a choice that ran counter to the “groupthink” of the 1940’s military.

Colonel Hamilton, and the few remaining Redtails, never forgot.

Hamilton’s heartfelt thanks to his former trainer, Hurley, astounded the judge.  Jay Hurley never knew how much impact his Pop had on those airmen. He never knew how his Dad had affected lives and was touched by history.

It’s a shame that Judge Hurley only first heard about at his Dad’s memorial service.  It’s the kind of a story that brings a smile to your face and tears to your eyes.  His great regret is that he never had a chance to share the story with “Pop”.


John Hurley’s obit from Georgia:


John James (J.J.) Hurley

Valdosta Daily Times (GA) –

— John James (J.J.) Hurley, 96, of Valdosta and formerly of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida died suddenly at his home on Friday, October 26, 2012. He was born in Washington D.C. on January 18, 1916 to the late John and Winifred Hurley. J.J was an aviation pioneer. He was a veteran of WWII and served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps and was the last surviving member of the 41B Squadron. Through his leadership and the collective training of other pilots, he was instrumental in the success and accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen having been the lead pilot trainer for the historic group. He also trained the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during this time. He was discharged as a Lt. Colonel when the war ended and went to work as a pilot with Delta Airlines. He flew for Delta for thirty years until he retired. He was the airline’s oldest living original captains. Following his tenure with Delta he became the director for Mackey Airlines. He loved golfing, fishing and boating. He was a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ft. Lauderdale.



17 Responses to “Judge Surprised By Story About His Dad”

  1. Duke says:

    Mr. Fields. I always learn so much from you, and that is a truly wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Andy Behrman says:

    Sam, today’s sentinel front page has a story about pet hotels, and about a bank taking back the mansion in Boca. I’m sure riveting stories to the public. It’s why I don’t buy this piece of garbage anymore. I wonder how my HOA allowed it to lay on the ground in front of homes and not generate a letter.

    This story means something. It’s about what true heroes are made of. It’s what our kids are missing. Unsung, unsolicited, and always unassuming because “well its the right thing to do” is what should be honored. Not some asshole because he makes gazillions of $$ on a field, a court, or a diamond. But I guess that’s what we adults have allowed to happen. So many parents today are spineless, gutless, wimps..ya know it’s not worth the time to write this stuff. John Hurley is a hero who’s story I will use and tell to anyone who will listen so that they can understand what a true hero is all about. Thanks for putting this out. At least some journalists still can find a story that matters.

  3. NP148 says:

    I applaud John Hurley who is very professional and reading about his father was amazing and God Bless Him

  4. Typical says:

    I have the utmost respect for the deceased Mr. Hurley and all the good he did in his life.

    Sadly, he never taught his son humility. Why is this a story on a blog? Because Jay’s need for media attention never ceases. The same Jay saying he was going to turn Democrat after his friend Bob Nichols lost as a Republican in August. Now just coincidentally, Hurley will one day take this article and make it into a campaign mail piece most likely targeted to black voters.

    You know why Mr. Hurley never told his son this information? Because men of the greatest generation did not feel to need to peacock around filling an unquenched need for attention. Men like Mr. Hurley spoke by their actions.

    Sadly, Jay Hurley could not let it be known amongst his children and other family members what a great man his father was, he had to seek out media attention from it. Sadly, this story is just another play for attention, like the bowtie, oversized name plate, telling a guy who beat his wife to take her bowling.

    Rest in Peace Mr. Hurley and thank you for your contributions to our Country.

  5. Mr. Jones says:

    It is too bad that Judge Hurley can’t be more like his father since Judge Hurley has nothing good to say about blacks. Watch him on court TV for 10 minutes and you see how unfairly he treats blacks and everybody else.

  6. What Would Reagan Do? says:

    Nice story, Sam. I suppose John Hurley never spoke about this because doing the right thing seemed natural to him. The greatest generation, indeed.

  7. Debra says:

    Great man, great son.
    Thanks Sam.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story. How wonderful that Jay had such an amazing father.

  9. Mark says:

    I’ve known Jay Hurley for years and Mr. Jones is way off. Let’s put it his way: if the judge mistreated blacks one iota, do you think we would have heard something from PD Howard Finkelstein?

    You know it. The fact that the PD has never voiced discontent with Judge Hurley says everything about the man’s sense of fairness.

    Very touching article about Jay’s father. Treating people fairly seems to be a family trait.

  10. Alanna Mersinger says:

    How sad that when a heartwarming story of courage and honor is told people have to go to the ugly place and make comments totally unrelated to the story. This was not an article about Judge Hurley this was an article about “Pop” his father, who some of the bloggers might do well to emulate. An as for the Judge sorry for your loss, I believe in the old expression that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

  11. Mike says:

    Judge Jay Hurley is an honorable man and a wonderful public servant. I am sure the naysayers above were on the wrong side of the law and have chosen to take it out on this blog. Shame on them for being so small and petty.


  12. Please says:

    So if the Judge didn’t seek the story how did a story from a family funeral in GA get on a blog.

    Jay is good at getting media attention, give him that.

  13. I attended says:

    There was a small funeral in Georgia after his death.
    There was a funeral Mass at St. Anthony in Fort Lauderdale (just read the above obit!)a few weeks ago.
    Many were as suprised as I, when the gentleman from the T.A. came to the altar at the end of the mass.
    It is ashame that the same person keeps posting negative comments about judge Hurley on this blog. It is clear that his prominence in Broward is such a bother to the poster that he needs to continue posting. It is also sad that after the Hurley family has lost a member the unhappy poster feels compelled to continue his negative attacks.
    Mr. Hurley was a great man and he raised some really good kids.
    I will say a prayer for him and the negative poster. Perhaps the poster can someday find peace.
    It was a very moving tribute to Mr. Hurley and his family.

  14. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Great story – thanks Sam!!

  15. Jay says:

    Why are only some employees of the Broward County Schools being asked to have their fingerprints done and not the entire school,Some have been in the system for 20 yrs or more and had their finger prints done with the entire staff over 7 yrs ago, why not ALL employees why just some?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  16. c e m says:

    Who is Michael Ahearn?

  17. SAM FIELDS says:

    Dear Please
    This story was totally my idea and sprang from reading the obit which correctly led me to think there was a good back-story.

    Nothing more, nothing less although I am sure the cynics will always see it some other way.