By Jennifer Rogers/Co-editor
Former Eastern National Alumni Association President James E. Bickford, appointed by Gov. Paul Patton in 1995 to serve as secretary of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, died Friday following a battle with cancer.Bickford, 65, served as the Alumni Association’s president from 1999-2000.
Bickford was born in West Virginia but was raised in Harlan County. He graduated from Eastern with a bachelor’s degree and a commission as an Army second lieutenant before getting his master’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.
During his career in the Army, Bickford traveled to England, Germany, France, Korea and Vietnam. He commanded the Defense Fuel Supply Center — essentially in charge of buying, distributing and storing all fuel used by the U.S. Armed Forces — during the Persian Gulf War.
His decorations in the Army ranged from distinguished service medals to merit honors, and he retired as a brigadier general.
Upon his appointment as secretary, Bickford’s focus turned to solid waste issues in Kentucky. He campaigned against illegal dumps and worked to improve the states’ logging operations.
Bickford also had a major hand in creating the Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment program with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers. PRIDE, focused on environmental improvement and education in 40 eastern Kentucky counties, recently selected a stream at Eastern’s Meadowbrook Farm as an area in need of improvement.
Bickford’s career also led him to service in the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He was selected as Eastern’s Outstanding Alumnus in 1989.
In 1991, he received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest peacetime award given by the Defense Department.
Other honors he received include being named one of Harlan County’s 20 most influential citizens during the last millennium and being inducted into the U.S. Army Quartermaster Hall of Fame.
Bickford was a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Versailles, where services were held Monday morning.
He is survived by his wife, Shirley, his mother, a brother, three daughters and five grandchildren.
Memorial contributions in Bickford’s honor may be made to the Pine Mountain Settlement School, 36 Highway 510, Pine Mountain, KY 40810 or Hospice of the Bluegrass, 208 Steele Street, Frankfort, KY 40601.