Lander University graduate James Simpson, a U.S. Army veteran of nearly 28 years, has been promoted to brigadier general. He received the star symbolic of his new rank in November with his wife, Zelda, their two daughters and his parents taking part in the pinning ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Simpson is the deputy director of contracting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in that position he supervises a global network of 57 contracting offices and over 1,300 personnel.
He described his promotion as a humbling experience. “I never dreamed of becoming a general officer and, after five years as a colonel, it’s taken some time to get used to being addressed as ‘general.’” In addition to his current duties, the new rank also gives him responsibility for a wider scope of planning into the future.
Simpson graduated from Lander in 1985 with a degree in political science. He also completed Reserve Officers’ Training Corps requirements and was honored as a distinguished military graduate. He went on to receive master’s degrees in public administration, national resource strategy and business administration at other schools, and he has completed several advanced military educational programs.
Before being assigned to the Army Acquisition Corps, Simpson served as an air defense artillery officer with the 101st Airborne, the 2nd Infantry and 24th Infantry divisions. He has held several other command and staff positions during his career, including two tours of duty in Iraq, and has earned an impressive array of military awards and decorations.
Simpson is from Clinton, the son of Dorothy and Wince Simpson. He has two brothers: Michael, of Clinton, and Preston, of Simpsonville. His sister, Cynthia Simpson, of Laurens, is a 1986 Lander graduate.
He is married to the former Zelda Nash, a native of Promised Land and the daughter of Lizzie and Rufus Nash who still live in that community. She graduated from Lander in 1982 with a degree in early childhood education and elementary education, and three years later, she received a master’s in education. She taught third grade for 12 years and fourth grade for six years at Pinecrest Elementary School in Greenwood. She is a third grade teacher at Lake Ridge Elementary School in Prince William County, Va.
The Simpsons live in Woodbridge, Va. They have two daughters: Alexis, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University; and Devin, a high school senior.
Simpson and his wife visit family in the Upstate from time to time. During a visit in December, he had lunch with retired Lander President Larry Jackson and retired history professor Dr. Gilbert Guinn. He said he also took time for a drive through the campus and remarked, “You’ve come a long way since my student days.” He was especially impressed with the Jeff May Sports Complex, which opened last year.
Simpson is the second Lander graduate promoted to brigadier general in less than two years. In January 2011, Marie Goff, a 1978 alumna and native of Ninety Six, became the first woman to achieve the rank of brigadier general in the history of the South Carolina National Guard. She is the S.C. National Guard’s director of Joint Forces.