Morehead was born on August 16, 1916, in Paoli, Oklahoma and raised in Washington, Oklahoma. His father, Clem, was a small farmer who ran the town general store and his mother, Ophelia, was a teacher.
He enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard on June 10, 1934, and served until July 31, 1940, with a break in service from June 9 to August 1, 1937. He then enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the United States Army Air Corps on September 5, 1940, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Stockton Field on April 25, 1941.
His first assignment was as a P-40 Warhawk pilot with the 70th Pursuit Squadron of the 35th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field, California.
When Attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, Lieutenant Morehead was in the hospital, recovering from injuries sustained in a midair training collision, in which Morehead jumped out of his cockpit and parachuted 400 feet to safety. The other pilot, 2nd Lt. William E. Scott, 22, died in the crash. Had he been fit, he would have been dispatched with his unit to the Philippines; many of his comrades in the unit were captured there by the Japanese and died on the Bataan Death March.
He was then deployed to Java temporarily with the 17th Pursuit Squadron, from April 1941 to March 1942. It was then, followed by service as a P-40 pilot with the 8th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Pursuit Group in Australia from March to October 1942. He destroyed three enemy aircraft on February 25, 1942 and was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross, second highest award for that mission and on April 25, 1942, he destroyed two more enemy aircraft, earning him the flying ace status.
During this time he was credited with the destruction of 7 Japanese aircraft in aerial combat. He received Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in the Pacific Theater.
After returning to the United States in October 1942, Capt Morehead served as a P-38 Lightning pilot, Operations Officer, and then Commanding Officer of the 331st Fighter Squadron of the 329th Fighter Group at Van Nuys, California, from October 1942 to February 1944.
Maj Morehead next served as a P-38 pilot and Operations Officer for the 1st Fighter Group in Italy from April to October 1944, and during this time he was credited with the destruction of 1 enemy aircraft in aerial combat over Romania. He received an additional Distinguished Service Cross and an additional Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in the European Theater.
During World War II, his aerial victories consists total of 8 enemy planes destroyed in the air and 1 damaged during World War II, making him a flying ace. Of his kills, seven were attained while flying P-40 and one was attained while flying P-38.
After he returned to United States, Morehead served as Air Inspector with the 432nd Army Air Force Base Unit at Portland, Oregon, from December 1944 to April 1945, with the 434th Army Air Force Base Unit at Santa Rosa, California, from April to July 1945, and with the 433rd Army Air Force Base Unit and then 488th Army Air Force Base Unit at Chico, California, from July 1945 to January 1946.
His book "In my sights" is a candid, honest, brave story of the few who survived the terrible aerial battles against the Zeros in the Southwest Pacific.
After the end of war, his next assignment was followed by service as Assistant Coordination and Compliance Officer and Assistant Executive Officer with the 482nd Army Air Force Base Unit at Merced, California, from May to November 1946. He then served with the 200th Army Air Force Base Unit at Colorado Springs, Colorado, from November 1946 until he left active duty and entered the Air Force Reserve on January 2, 1947.
Morehead was recalled to active duty on July 2, 1947, and then served as Assistant Operations and Training Officer for the 309th Army Air Force Base Unit at Greenville, South Carolina, from July 1947 to July 1948. His next assignment was as the Senior Air Force Instructor and Liaison Officer with the Minnesota Air National Guard, where he served with the 133rd Fighter Group from July 1948 to March 1951, and then as the Executive Officer for the 133rd Fighter Interceptor Wing at Holman Field from March to May 1951.
Morehead next served as Executive Officer of the 128th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Truax Field, from May to December 1951, followed by attending Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, from December 1951 to July 1952. After serving at Camp Stoneman, he then completed F-84 Thunderjet Combat Crew Training.
Morehead served in the Korean War as Inspector of the 474th Fighter Wing in Korea from February to April 1953, and then as Operations Officer of the 49th Fighter-Bomber Wing, both based at Taegu AB (K-2) in Korea from April to September 1953.
He then served as Team Commander and Operations Advisor for Flight C with the Air Force Section of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group in Taiwan from September 1953 to December 1954. He served with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from January 1955 until he left active duty and joined the Air Force Reserve on June 21, 1955, and then remained in the Air Force Reserve until his retirement on June 23, 1968.
Morehead’s first marriage, to Aldine Seeger, ended in divorce. He later married Betty Bob Angerman on 1960.
After retirement from the Air Force, while living in San Rafael, Morehead and his wife, Betty, purchased the F Street Apartments in Petaluma, California and operated them until 1975, the year they, along with son Jimmy and daughters Melanie and Myrna, moved to a ranch on Sonoma Mountain. His company, Morehead Enterprises, then purchased a 38-acre parcel on Dynamic Way, which they developed into Petaluma's first industrial park. Another of their projects included developing 22 acres near Industrial Drive and Petaluma Boulevard North.
In 1999 he was inducted into the American Combat Airman Hall of Fame.
On 2011, he was honored by the city of Petaluma, which featured an air show of vintage fighter planes, including a P-40. As part of the celebration, Petaluma Mayor David Glass read a proclamation declaring "James B. Morehead Day."
Morehead passed away on March 11, 2012. He is buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
His awards and decorations include:
Command pilot badge
Armed Forces Reserve Medal with bronze hourglass device
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Philippine Defense Medal
Philippine Independence Medal
French Croix de Guerre with Palm
Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Korea Medal
Korean War Service Medal