Joe Murphy served nation, family & Air Force One

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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ORANGEFIELD — Joe Murphy has lived a rewarding and fascinating life for over 95 years.

The Orangefield resident was born in 1928 in Mississippi, served in the Air Force shortly after World War II and then moved to Orange County to work at Dupont.

When Joe arrived in Orange, he was a single man looking for a woman to marry. Thankfully for Joe, a beautiful woman named Betty recently moved to Orange from Louisiana and was working at a drug store.

On one occasion as Joe walked by the drug store, he noticed Betty through the window of the store and she immediately caught his eye.

Joe gathered up some courage, walked into the store to introduce himself and just three months later the happy couple married. The Murphys would go on to have seven children and were happily married for 62 years until Betty’s passing.

Joe and Betty’s life in Orange was filled with hard work and faithful community service. Not only did Joe work for over 37 years as a machinist at Dupont, but he would use all of his vacation time to help build churches.

The Murphys were longtime members of Old First Orange Baptist Church, and from the 1980s to the early 2000s, the church had an active volunteer Christian builders program. Joe enjoyed serving in the church’s building ministry, and for 35 years he traveled across the country and helped build churches.

These trips were a blessing to him and his wife and they created memories that would last for a lifetime.

Perhaps the most fascinating details of Joe’s life occurred while he served in the Air Force from 1950 to 1954. He was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, and served as a crew chief on an airplane.

His job was to get the plane from the hanger, bring it to the main gate and make sure it had all the necessary items for the flight. He would then spend most of the flight standing between the pilot and co-pilot and monitor various instruments.

The flights that Joe traveled on would carry him all over Europe. He traveled to London, Rome, and Soviet-controlled East Germany. On one of these trips to Germany, Joe decided he would go through the Brandenburg Gate and take a tour of Soviet East Berlin.

One of Joe’s favorite memories from this time occurred while he was stationed at Frankfurt.

Late one evening, General, but soon to be President Dwight D. Eisenhower, flew into Frankfurt to have his airplane serviced.

After inspecting the exterior of the airplane, Eisenhower was not pleased with the plane’s appearance and wanted it polished. As Joe and several others in his squadron were sleeping, they were quickly forced out of bed and spent the entire night polishing this plane.

However, after polishing the plane, there were some gaps in the polish, and when the general inspected the plane again, the men were made to polish the plane a second time.

While Joe and his squadron were not happy about having to polish the plane that particular night and morning, they did have something to boast about later on.

The plane Eisenhower traveled in was known as the Columbine II, and in 1953 when Eisenhower became president, the plane was renamed, Air Force One.

There are not too many people who can say that they had the opportunity to work on Air Force One, but Joe Murphy is one of those people.

— Written by Randy Redkey