James Paul Watson was born August 24, 1925 to Charles and Ellen Watson in Goochland County, Virginia. He grew up with five siblings, Samuel, Elizabeth, Joseph, Calvin, and David. His father was primarily a farmer, and his mother was a trained school teacher and a college graduate. The family lost their father in 1937. Despite their loss, in 1943, James Paul graduated from Central High School in Goochland as class valedictorian.
In 1944, James Paul joined the US Navy, and qualified as a motor machinist mate. He spent four months training at Hampton Roads and pursued additional training at the Naval Training School in Great Lakes, Illinois. He subsequently was stationed in Hawaii and finally Saipan in the South Pacific for post-war reconstruction efforts working as a machinist mate. He was honorably discharged after World War II and returned to Goochland County, Virginia.
Because there were few employment opportunities in rural Goochland for African Americans, he decided to go to Washington, D.C. to seek his fortune. Initially he worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet. Sadly, in 1948 at age 23, he lost his mother. After coming to D.C., he studied electronics at the Capital Radio Institute at night and drove a taxicab along with his other Watson brothers. He eventually became President of the Capitol Cab Association in 1951.
In the mid-1950s, the Watson brothers decided to change professions and go into the gas station business. They initially started out with purchasing a gas station at 4th and New Jersey Ave. NW, in Washington, D.C. He and his brother David later bought out the interest of two other brothers and started Watson Bros. Texaco at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Rd. NE. They eventually purchased the Watson Bros. Exxon at 3rd and Kennedy Streets NW. He worked as a service station owner for over 30 years before retiring in the late 1980s. It was truly a family business in which his children, many nephews, cousins, family and friends worked at these gas stations during their formative years.
While driving his cab in D.C. one day in the 1950s, he stopped in a restaurant on U Street and met Ophelia Brown, of Powhatan, Virginia who was working there as a waitress. In 1958, they married and raised three children, Claude, Mandel, and Paul. In subsequent years, they also raised a grandchild and great grandchild to maturity. James Paul was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was a pleasant person to be around, and role model to many other family and extended family members.
After retiring, James Paul spent his time still raising his great grandchild, bowling, doing home repairs, and helping other family members in need. James Paul had a solid work ethic, was self-taught in many skills, and could repair TVs, radios, appliances, cars, perform major home improvements, plumbing and electrical work. Also, he taught his children how to be self-sufficient and passed on those skills to them.
James Paul became a member of County Line Baptist Church early in life and later joined the Metropolitan Baptist Church after moving to Washington, D.C. He raised his family in the church and taught them the meaning of being a good Christian person, by example. He loved gospel music, encouraged his family to appreciate the arts, and to become musicians and performing artists.
James Paul lived life to its fullest, was hardly ever sick, and suffered only from dementia in his later years. He had a charitable spirit, and was devoted to his family throughout his entire life. He was well loved by his family, his business associates, his gas station customers, his neighbors both at his Channing Street residence in Washington, D.C., and his neighbors at his Grove Tavern Lane residence in Powhatan, Virginia.
He is survived by his wife, Ophelia, of 61 years, his sons Claude (Maria), Mandel (Kimberly), Paul (Judy), five grandchildren Jon-Claude Harris, Paul Darryl Watson Sr, Patricia Watson, Marissa Harris Simpson (James) and Mandel Watson Jr., two greatgrandchildren, Paul D. Watson Jr. and Pamela May. He is also survived by one brother David Watson, one sister, Elizabeth Fleming, various nephews, nieces, cousins, and a host of other relatives and friends.