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Shelli King
/ Categories: Unclaimed Property

Tennessee Unclaimed Property returns WWII Medals to Sanders family

Nashville, TN – Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. returned four missing Word War II medals to the family of the late James Sanders III, a U.S. Army veteran from Nashville.

The Tennessee Department of Treasury, Division of Unclaimed Property, was able to connect with the medal recipient’s son, Jai Sanders, who claimed the medals. Treasurer Lillard recently presented them to Jai at the Tennessee State Capitol. Joining Treasurer Lillard were Lt. Governor Randy McNally; nine members of the Tennessee General Assembly Veterans Caucus, including Rep. Monty Fitts, Leader Karen Camper, Sen. Bill Powers, Rep. Ronnie Glynn, Rep. Dave Wright, Rep. Jay Reedy, Rep. Harold Love, Jr., Rep. John Ragan, and Sen. Jon Lundberg; General Tommy H. Baker, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services.

James Clifford “Jimmy” Sanders served in the U.S. Army from February 1942 – October 1962, retiring as a Master Sergeant and ROTC Instructor for the Department of Military Science and Tactics at Virginia State University. After being drafted into WWII, he primarily served as quartermaster for the majority of his time in both the European Theater and Pacific Theater. He also later served in the Korean War. His time in combat included tours in Guam, Germany, Korea, and the Mariana Islands.

Among MSG Sanders’ seven service medals, the Department of Treasury returned four that were turned over to the Unclaimed Property Division: The European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.

Jai Sanders, who wanted to ensure the medals were in safekeeping for his family, stored the medals in a safe deposit box over 25 years ago at a Nashville bank. The box had become abandoned. Thanks to the Tennessee law protecting all military decorations, Regions Bank turned over the medals to Unclaimed Property. On Wednesday, Jai was reunited with these mementos of his father’s bravery and sacrifice.

“The Unclaimed Property program is brilliant. I always thought it was one of the best things the State did,” Jai Sanders said. “Soldiers retire and die without a lot of conversation about who they were, and to return these medals to the families reignites some of those conversations, brings a spotlight to the soldiers, and service men and women, and allows for us to understand more about what they went

through to get to where we are now. I want to thank the Treasury Department for finding the medals and keeping them and returning them to me.”

The Unclaimed Property Medal Protection program is due to legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in May 2011 to protect military medals for Tennessee veterans by asking banks and other organizations with abandoned safe deposit boxes to turn over any military medals, decorations, and awards presented to a member of the Armed Forces or National Guard.

“The Veterans Caucus actually were the ones that brought forth this idea and it was picked up by the Treasury Department. It’s a wonderful way to honor those who have given so much to their country,” Lt. Gov. McNally said.

James Sanders, born in December 1918, was raised on Trinity Lane in the Bordeaux neighborhood of Nashville. He graduated in 1936 from Pearl High School. MSG Sanders worked as a clerk for the U.S. Postal Service in the Frist Center – the building that today houses the Frist Art Museum – for the remainder of his civilian career. MSG Sanders, who died in 1996, was buried with full military honors in Nashville National Cemetery, a US veterans cemetery in Madison.

“The returning of military medals is very special because it’s our way as a state and a population to recognize the service and sacrifice of veterans who have served our country and protected our freedom,” Treasurer Lillard said. “You can’t put a price on that.”


About the Tennessee Treasury Unclaimed Property Division:

Unclaimed property is money that has been turned over to the State by businesses and organizations that cannot locate the rightful owners. Every year, millions of missing dollars are turned over, and the Tennessee Treasury Department works to get that money back to the rightful owners. In Tennessee, there is currently $1.2 billion in unclaimed property still waiting to be returned.

In addition to monetary items, the Tennessee Treasury also holds military medals recovered from abandoned safe-deposit boxes in the state. To search for missing money or military decorations, go to

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