By: Steve Downs
James and Mattie Mathis were wed September 10, 1952, at the Court House in Guntersville, Ala. James was 22 years old, and Mattie was only 16 at the time they joined hands.
James laughs as he recalls how their ceremony began with Judge Corbin pulling a quick prank. Right off the bat, Judge Corbin spoke up with a smile and told Mattie that he thought, this time, things would work out well because, “this is the third time James has been married and the third time is the charm.” Mattie, taking the joke seriously, immediately ran out of the court room shouting, “I don’t want no second-hand husband!”
That’s just the kind of story you get when you sit down with James and Mattie Mathis. You never know what you’re going to hear or experience when they start telling you about their life together. Speaking of experience, when I asked how they met, with a gleam in his eyes – James said it was love at first sight. Although it took Mattie a little longer to come around, James confesses that when he first saw her, he knew she was the one.
“I never want to waste a good opportunity,” James said while laughing. It didn’t take long before there was a proposal for marriage. Evidently, they caught Mattie before she left the court house and completed the wedding vows. The couple saved their first kiss until the honorable judge pronounced them man and wife. “That day,” James recounts with sincere conviction, “I said ‘til death’ and I meant it.”
Parents to two boys and four girls, James and Mattie have had good times as well as hard times. Through it all, they attribute the longevity of their marriage to faith in Jesus Christ and a strong sense of humor. The couple was not shy to confess that many times their marriage endured great tests, but they didn’t allow those hardships to tear them apart. Their commitment to each other kept them together.
When I asked Mattie what qualities in James that she loved most, without hesitation she mentioned the fact that he’s always been an extremely funny man. She added that he’s a Godly man and that merit has made all the difference. Almost in unison, the couple shared that, “Over the years, God has taught us to love each other.”
Mattie currently resides at Marshall Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Guntersville. James comes to see her almost daily with his son, John. They make sure Mattie gets to church every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. On Sunday, September 10, the Activities Coordinators and staff at Marshall Manor treated James and Mattie to a surprise 65th Anniversary Party. Alongside all the fun, fixings and celebration were hearts of joy and gratitude for a wonderful life together and the expectation of many more years to come.
When I asked the cheerful couple what advice they would give to the newlyweds, they both thought very hard. There was at least a solid moment of silence. “When you have hard times, don’t cast blame…just share it. Give more than you take. Always remember, it takes two to make one.”
Editor’s Note: Steve Downs is the Community Educator for Marshall Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center located in Guntersville, Ala.