Jim Downing, Navigator #6 – 2nd Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivor (1913-2018)

COLORADO SPRINGS – Jim Downing, known as Navigator #6, was one of the first military men led to the Lord by Navigators founder, Dawson Trotman.

Downing was on assignment at Pearl Harbor in 1941 when the Japanese attacked six U.S. bases there on Sunday morning, December 7th. Despite fighting raging fires aboard the USS Nevada as the attack continued, Downing was able to face his fears with the peace that only faith in Christ can bring. He said, “I felt like, ‘Lord, I’ll be with you in a minute.’ And I fully expected to be. So, I had the deepest peace I’ve ever felt in my life.”

Once the fires on the ships were out, Downing went bed-to-bed in the hospitals where his fellow sailors were suffering from their burns, getting their names and addresses, promising to send a personal note to each of their families back home. Most of them passed away during the night that followed.

Downing had become a Christian in 1932 through the witness and testimony of other sailors serving with him on board the USS West Virginia. Downing was introduced to Dawson Trotman, the founder of what would become The Navigators, while the latter was beginning his work with sailors based in Southern California. Trotman encouraged him to study and memorize Scripture.

“My life’s ambition was changed when I became [founder Dawson’s Trotman’s] spiritual descendant. I had planned to attend law school and enter political office. After meeting Dawson, my life became all about availability to his Lord and mine.”

Once the war was over, Downing decided to devote himself to spreading the Gospel through the ministries of The Navigators. He drove all night from his home in Virginia Beach to Schroon Lake, New York, in 1956 where he was to meet with Trotman the next day to discuss Downing’s transition into the ministry. He arrived the day after Trotman had drowned.

The loss of The Navigators’ founder made the need for a man of Downing’s faith and leadership qualities even more urgent and important. Downing relocated to Colorado Springs to lead the ministry of The Navigator’s conference center facility at Glen Eyrie.

He served The Navigators in various capacities, including 13 years at Glen Eyrie, followed by stints as deputy president, director of Navigator ministries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and as chairman of the board of directors. He “retired” from The Navigators in 1983. During his tenure of training staff members, The Navigators grew from 200 to nearly 5,000 workers around the globe.

Doug Nuenke, President of The Navigators U.S. paid this tribute to Downing: “Jim was an influence among us for walking with God and having our life’s workflow from our knowledge of the Word and walk with Christ. Jim has influenced me by being a man who finished well – with a spirit of humility and faith, not demanding influence but having influence because all see the character of Jesus in his life.”

Jim Downing was 104 years old at the time of his passing on February 13, 2018.


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