Brigadier General James E. Bickford was born in Garten, West Virginia, the the son of a coal miner/store manager. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the Infantry after graduation from Eastern Kentucky University in 1959. After the Infantry Officer's Basic Course he was assigned to Fort Knox, Kentucky, were he served as a platoon leader and company commander. In 1961, he was assigned to the 308th Quartermaster Battalion in Giessen, Germany where he commanded A Company.
Early in his career, Brigadier General Bickford established his credentials as a first-rate petroleum officer and went on to hold key command and staff assignments at every level. As a captain in Vietnam, he was the first petroleum officer assigned to the 1st Logistical Command and developed the first overall petroleum support plan for US troops in Southeast Asia. As a major, he played a pivotal role in high-level negotiations concerning US military petroleum interests in France. He later served a second tour in Vietnam as a Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) petroleum staff officer.
He was selected in 1976 to command the Petroleum Distribution Command, Korea (PDSK) which operated and maintained a 300 mile pipeline. From 1984 to 1986 he commanded the 47th Area Support Group in Burtonwood, England. At Burtonwood his unit's mission was to maintain and be prepared to ship war reserve materials to to central Europe in time of war. In 1986 he took command of the 200th Theater Army Materiel Management Center in Zweibrucken, Germany. In his last assignment before retirement in 1991, he commanded the Defense Fuel Supply Center, which oversaw the acquisition, storage and distribution of all fuel for US forces worldwide-including the immensely successful fuel support provided during Operation Desert Storm.
In 1992 he was selected by the Secretary of Energy as the Director of Emergency Plans and Operations at the Department of Energy. He left the Department of Energy in 1994 and did consulting work for a number of firms. In December 1995, he was selected as Cabinet Secretary of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, State of Kentucky.
Brigadier General Bickford died on October 25, 2002 at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer.
His awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster) and the Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster).
He was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Quartermaster Regiment in 1991 (Charter Year).