Community Mourns Loss of Councilman Dr. Jim Richards
The Thomaston-Upson community is mourning the loss of City of Thomaston Councilmember Jim Richards. Richards died Friday, Sept. 20, at the Upson Regional Medical Center. Richards was elected in November 2011 to fill the unexpired term of the late Ed Bell as District 3 Councilmember. Richards was running unopposed in the November election for the District 3 seat.
Dr. Rick Thurman, friend of Richards and columnist for the Beacon wrote:
Dr. Jim Richards
Last Friday Thomaston lost one of its finest citizens. He would most certainly be too modest to acknowledge such a compliment, but Dr. Jim Richards was the kind of man we have too few of.
It is not stretching the point at all for me to say that Jim Richards was the cause of my having moved to Thomaston. More than twenty years ago I was teaching on the English faculty at Georgia Southwestern, in Americus, when I was invited to apply for an academic division chairmanship at Gordon College. At that time Dr. Richards was the Dean of the Faculty there, and he had a voice in my being offered the position. And then he became my supervisor for four of the six years I was at Gordon. His insight into conditions and relationships at the college and his genial guidance and support were of invaluable assistance to me.
But our relationship with each other extended beyond the Gordon campus. He and I both lived in Thomaston, and we were both members of the Presbyterian church here. He had been here much longer than I, but my lifelong experience as a Presbyterian and his tenure of activity in the local congregation brought us together in a more-than-merely-professional association. Indeed, it was through my acquaintance with him at the church, especially after we had both retired from academia, that I came to know the “real” Jim Richards.
He was a truly committed Christian. One could see his desire to follow his Lord in almost every action he undertook. He worked tirelessly in so many different aspects of the life of the congregation that it is difficult to single out just one or two for particular mention.
We both sang in the tenor section of the church choir. In fact, we were the entire tenor section. I expect that, like me, he had been singing in a church choir somewhere for most of his life. Neither of us was absent from church very often, and I don’t think we were ever absent at the same time, so for the past twenty years we faithfully held down the tenor line in the anthems our choir sang. He was a good tenor, often singing a solo or participating in a duet or quartet. I will certainly miss his sitting beside me in the choir loft.
In addition, after he retired, he became an active participant in the Silver Circle, our church’s group for “senior citizens.” He was president of the group off and on for many years, he collected and presented countless jokes to entertain the group, and he drove the church bus time and again when the group went on excursions here, there, or yonder. Perhaps half a dozen times he drove us up to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. He drove us to the Infantry Museum in Columbus. He drove us to Callaway Gardens, to the Barnstormers Restaurant, and to the Mennonite Restaurant near Montezuma. His devotion to the Silver Circle will be long remembered by those who were recipients of his care and attentiveness. In addition, he served the congregation as a member of the session and as a kind of jack-of-all-trades. Whenever, for example, there seemed to be a problem with the audio system in the sanctuary or the fellowship hall, Jim was always the one who knew how to make the needed repairs or adjustments. When we needed thoughtful suggestions or advice, we turned to Jim. What will we do without him?
John Donne’s best known prose meditation, the passage that begins “No man is an island,” goes on to say that “any man’s death diminishes me,” because we are all related to one another. Indeed, we have all been diminished by the loss of Jim Richards, and we will miss him beyond measure.
Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold said about his friend and colleague: “I, and more importantly, the citizens of the City of Thomaston, have lost another genuine friend and public servant. The passing of Dr. Jim Richards came as a shock to me as it did to most who knew him. Jim was a quiet, unassuming man, who possessed a powerful intellect and who channeled that intellect into analytical thinking, which resulted in sound reasoning. He never took decision making lightly. I will always remember him as a gentle, God fearing Christian, who loved his church, his country, and his community. As Mayor, I extend the sympathy of all our city elected officials, management, and every city employee to Jim's wife Barbara, daughters, Jaimee and Paige, and the entire Richards family. May God bless this family and grant them the peace that passes all understanding.”
Dr. Richards was a native of Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He received his PHD in history from the University of Illinois. He was retired as Vice-President of Academic Affairs from Gordon College and was named Professor Emeritus of Gordon College. Dr. Richards was chairman of the Social Studies Department of Macon Jr. College when it opened and also served as chairman of the Social Studies Department at Kentucky Southern College in Louisville, Kentucky. He also was a VIP reader for 10 years in the school system. He was a member and Trustee of First Presbyterian Church.
Dr. Richards served on the Session as clerk, sang in the choir for 40 years, taught Sunday School and drove the church van for a number of years. He had been chairman of the Library Board and chairman of the Thomaston Housing Authority. Dr. Richards was a Member of TUAC, the AARP and the Gilmore Center Board.