James T. Conway (1947–)

James T. Conway served for forty years in the United States Marine Corps, culminating with his service as thirty-fourth commandment of the corps. Trained as an infantry officer, he commanded troops in both the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War while also holding numerous administrative roles.

James Terry Conway was born on December 26, 1947, in Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) to James Edward Conway (who had served in the military during World War II, suffering three wounds) and Ruby Shrable Conway; he had one sister, Sandra. The family moved between Missouri and Arkansas during Conway’s early life before moving permanently to Missouri in 1958. After doing a variety of jobs in Arkansas, including picking cotton, Conway’s father worked as machinist in Missouri while his mother worked as a seamstress.

Conway graduated from Roosevelt High School in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1964 and attended Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, where he earned a degree in psychology in 1969. After graduation, Conway briefly worked on a road construction crew and as a middle school teacher.

Conway entered the U.S. Marine Corps and attended The Basic School, receiving his commission in 1970. Upon graduation, Conway was assigned to multiple roles within infantry units in both the First and Second Marine Divisions. Conway served at sea as the executive officer of the marine detachment posted to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. At the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Conway served as both a series officer and company commander. He also led the Sea School, a training program for marines assigned to naval ships, and was an aide to the commanding general of the corps.

After completing the U.S. Army Advanced Infantry Officer’s Course, Conway returned to the Basic School, where he commanded companies of trainees. During the Persian Gulf War, Conway commanded the Third Battalion of the Second Marine Regiment as a lieutenant colonel. Promoted to colonel after the war, he took command of the Basic School. Receiving promotion to brigadier general in 1995, Conway served as Deputy Director of Operations, J-34, Combating Terrorism, for the Joint Chiefs of Staff before assuming command of Marine Corps University.

Conway was promoted to major general and assumed command of the First Marine Division in 2000. Following this command, Conway served as the Deputy Commanding General Marine Forces Central. After a promotion to lieutenant general in November 2002, he took command of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, leading the unit in the Iraq War including during the First Battle of Fallujah. Returning to the Pentagon in 2004, Conway served as the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Nominated by President George W. Bush, Conway was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the thirty-fourth commandment of the U.S. Marine Corps on August 2, 2006. He received a promotion to general in November 2006. During his tenure in command, Conway led the corps in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The corps withdrew from Iraq in 2010, turning over combat operations to the U.S. Army, and focused on operations in Afghanistan.

During his tenure as commandment, Conway directed the corps in ongoing military operations while also navigating social changes within the military. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (a Bill Clinton–era policy that allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons to serve in the military, albeit not openly) was pursued by the Barack Obama administration during Conway’s tenure. He opposed the immediate ending of the policy and suggested a one-year study of the potential repeal be conducted.

Retiring on November 1, 2010, Conway received numerous awards during his service, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Palm, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon.

After retirement, Conway held a variety of positions including sitting on Textron’s Board of Directors and Colt Firearms’ Board of Advisors, as well as serving as an adjunct faculty member of Georgetown University. Conway is married to Annette Drury Conway, and the couple has two sons and a daughter. Both sons serve as officers in the U.S. Marine Corps, and their daughter is married to a marine officer.

For additional information:
“General James T. Conway.” Marine Corps University. https://www.usmcu.edu/Research/Marine-Corps-History-Division/People/Whos-Who-in-Marine-Corps-History/Abrell-Cushman/General-James-T-Conway/ (accessed May 3, 2023).

Harris, Ron. “Corps Values.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 9, 2003, pp. A1, A10.

David Sesser
Southeastern Louisiana University


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