Jim Read was born in early January, 1933 on a farm in rural southern Illinois. By the age of eight, Jim was doing farm chores before and after going to school. There was also lots of farm field work, especially during the summer and fall. By the time WWII started, he was already looking skyward wanting to fly and the war only increased that desire. He graduated from Eldorado High School in 1950 with the highest grade average among the boys and found school work easy. It was a good thing as he didn't have time to study much. He attended Southern Illinois University for 2.5 years. His yearn for flying and the Korean War led to leaving college and becoming a Naval Aviation Cadet. He commenced US Navy flight training on his 20th birthday and got his wings in July 1954 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the USMCR. After a short course in officer training at MCAS El Toro, CA he was transferred to MCAS Kaneohe, HI where he joined VMF-232, a fighter squadron flying FJ-2 Furies. He quickly established himself with air-air gunnery marksmanship. He also spent a lot of spare time flying an F-6F or a SNB-5 around the Hawaiian Islands for extra proficiency and enjoyment.
After a year of enjoying Hawaii, most of the squadron pilots, including Jim, were transferred to fighter squadron VMF-451 based at NAS Atsugi, Japan, again still flying the FJ-2. He flew a lot of post-maintenance check flights in Hawaii and Japan and was selected, along with a TPS graduate, to fly test flights for Nippi Aircraft Co, a Japanese startup company at Atsugi NAS, along with normal squadron flying.
In November, 1956 he was transferred back stateside to MCAS Cherry Point, NC where he was a flight leader training VMF-235 pilots in FJ-3M Furies. He married his first wife, Mary Ann, who already had a two year old daughter Debby, in December 1956 and adopted Debby. After about a year in VMF-235 and the birth of his daughter Leslie, he was assigned to the Overhaul & Repair Facility at Cherry Point as a test pilot of various aircraft that had undergone extensive overhaul or repair. Over the next 3 years, he flew many varied aircraft aka jets, props and transports, often with little or no training. He then joined VMCJ-2 in 1960, a reconnaissance squadron, flying F8U-1P photo and F-3D ECM recce missions, some of which were south of Key West, FL. His third daughter Lynn was born in June, 1961. In August, 1961, he received orders to join the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines for a Southeast Asia deployment as a Forward Air Controller. After a 15 month deployment, he was selected to attend the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, MD and returned to the states in November, 1962.
While at TPS, he resumed flying varied aircraft and graduated with honors in September, 1963. He was then assigned as a Project Test Pilot at the Flight Test Division, Flying Qualities and Performance Branch where he test flew many different aircraft of that era including various versions of the A-4, A-5, A-6, F-4, F-8 and the OV-10 and Convair Charger prototypes. In 1965 he was accepted as a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. In July, 1966 his tour at Pax River was ending and as a Reserve Marine officer with no assurance of a military retirement and his marriage with Mary Ann failing, he chose to leave the military after almost 14 years of service with the rank of Major and 3500 military flight hours to take a civilian test pilot job with the Vought Aircraft Division of LTV Aerospace in Dallas, TX. He immediately started test flying the new military A-7 aircraft as an Experimental Test Pilot. In December, 1967 his marriage to Mary Ann ended in divorce. He continued to fly the A-7, F-8 and other aircraft at Vought. He met the love of his life, the beautiful Mary Ella, in February, 1968 and they were married one year later.
In 1971 he flew the A-7D in the international Paris Air Show. In 1972, he led a Vought team to Switzerland where Swiss pilots evaluated the A-7 during a three month series of tests. Jim flew an impressive air show at the end of the trials at Payerne, Switzerland.
In the late 70's, Jim was heavily involved in developing a night low-level attack capability in the A-7 and was promoted to Senior Experimental Test Pilot. He gave demo flights to many high ranking DOD personnel, both military and civilian, in the YA-7E two-seater. In the fall of 1981, he supervised the training of a cadre of 8 Portuguese Air Force pilots in the A-7P. They flew the first 9 aircraft to Portugal in December, 1981. Jim and Mary then spent the next 14 months in Portugal where Jim continued to help train the first A-7P PAF squadron. Upon return to Dallas, he resumed flight tests that led to development of the low altitude night attack version of the A-7D, spending many nights flying at very low levels and high speeds. In March, 1987 he was promoted to Chief Test Pilot. In December, 1989 Jim and Mary moved to Lancaster, CA where Jim led the Vought team during one year of flight tests of the YA-7F at Edwards AFB. Upon return to Dallas, he became heavily involved in selection of an aircraft candidate for the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System, of which the Argentine IA-63 was selected as the Vought entry. He performed flight tests, gave demo rides and performed in several air shows in the IA-63. After 40 years in a military aircraft cockpit and flying more than 120 different models and types of aircraft for more than 9,000 hours, Jim retired from flying in November, 1992.
After retirement, Jim kept his mind busy developing software for the emerging OS/2 PC operating system. His file management software was marketed for several years before Windows became the defacto user preference. It is still in use today in the follow on to OS/2, the eCS operating system, along with other programs he authored or acquired. Since 2008, he has cared for Mary - who has suffered major medical problems.