James Edward "Butch" Robbins

The one arm veteran that was a handicapable pump operator

The Sharpsburg Fire Department was a trend setter. This during a time era that was extremely difficult for physically handicapped citizens to be allowed to participate in groups and organizations of their own. Butch as he was known by, was a full functioning volunteer firefighter for the department in the 1970s. He was born and raised in Edgecombe County. He enlisted into the United Stated Army in 1967 and served in the Vietnam Conflict. While there he was injured by a land mine explosion. His injuries sustained was the loss of both legs and one arm.


After being awarded the Purple Heart for his wounds, he returned home to pursue a life in farming. In 1976 he was presented the Federal Handicapped Employee of the Year Award by United States President Jimmy Carter. Butch was said to regard himself not as handicapped but HANDICAPABLE as he would say. But persevered through mastering his body to perform tasks with only on arm. This was a capability that many able bodied people would struggle through. At the fire department he was a fire pump operator or engineer by some department standards. Many have personally witnessed Butch leaping up out of his wheelchair, grabbing the outside cab handle of Sharpsburg's pumper, and while hanging there by his one arm would sling himself into the cab of the apparatus. All of this effort he made look easy while responding to a alarm. Although the fire apparatus was not adapted for him to drive he would ride in the cab or drive his own vehicle to incidents/ Butch would operate the fire pump, attach hose lines from the apparatus to a fire hydrant and many other tasks which he accomplished. 


Butch served as a dispatcher for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Emergency Services along with a dispatcher for Nash County Emergency Services. He considered his greatest accomplishment speaking as a motivational speaker to groups. He had many jobs including farming and auctioneering. Mr. Robbins also wrote a book about his life's experiences in hopes to help others. James Edward "Butch" Robbins passed away on June 5, 2014 at the age of 64.