James A. "Jim" Wilkerson was born on February 9, 1931 to Annie Mae Fisher and Fred Martin Wilkerson in Lenoir City, and died on March 19, 2012 in Rock Hill, S.C., where he lived since 1964.
As a young person of limited means, he gathered scrap metal for spending money and acquired the lifelong nickname of "Scrap Iron."
He was the baby of the family, with older brothers Marty and Charlie, and older sisters Emily and Mary Ellen.
His family was active at Trinity Methodist Church, where he was also a Boy Scout, achieving Life rank. He was president of Lenoir City High School Senior Class of 1949, and joined the Tennessee National Guard.
After high school graduation, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee, hitchhiking to Knoxville for classes, but flunked out and went to work as a sheet metal apprentice building Buggs Island Dam in Virginia.
In 1950, he was activated for the Korean War with Company B of the 278th Regimental Combat Team of the Tennessee National Guard. He was stationed at Fort Devens, Mass. and Pine Camp, N.Y. and was sent to observe (at close range) an atomic bomb test north of Las Vegas, Nev. He volunteered for overseas assignment and was sent to Okinawa rather than Korea (due to flat feet) and served there until most National Guard members were released from active duty in 1952.
He continued to serve in the National Guard until after graduation from college.
Following his discharge, he re-enrolled at UT on the GI Bill and joined Sigma Phi Epsilon (also his brother Marty's fraternity). During college, he met and married the love of his life, Sara Ann Boyer, who lived next door to the frat house where he was living.
His first child, Rusty, was born while he was still in school and living in an apartment near campus. He graduated from UT in 1955 with a B.S. in industrial management, and accepted employment with Bowater Southern Paper Corporation as Woods Personnel Representative.
The second child, Steve, was born in 1956. Jim rose in the ranks and was transferred to Bowater's new pulp mill in Catawba, S.C., in 1959 as assistant industrial superintendent.
He helped hire the first employees of the new South Carolina mill and participated in inaugural union contract negotiations during which the employees went on strike (for the first and only time during his career). After the mill startup, he transferred back to Tennessee for five years, during which time his third child Beth was born.
He transferred back to Rock Hill with his young family in 1964, working as human resources manager for the Catawba mill and stayed with Bowater until his retirement in 1997.
Jim took an active role in the Rock Hill community and professional affairs including service as president of United Way and the YMCA, Vice president of the York County Chapter of American Red Cross and Rock Hill Country Club, board member of the Rock Hill Chamber of Commerce, York Technical College, and the Rock Hill Area Personnel Association.
Jim was a 48-year member of Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church, serving as elder and many other leadership roles. Jim enjoyed the time he spent planning for and gardening in his backyard, he played golf for many years, loved to travel with his wife Ann and family and friends to Garden City, S.C. and various Florida beaches for surf fishing and good seafood.
Jim never stopped trying new things or meeting new friends and he was actively planning new projects and keeping up with family news until the end.
Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Ann, his four siblings and his parents. He is survived by many close friends and a loving extended family, including his son Rusty Wilkerson (Cathy) of Oldsmar, Fla.; his son Steve Wilkerson of Rock Hill; his daughter Beth Robinson (Joe) of Rock Hill; his seven grandchildren, Lauren Wilkerson Fedalen (Josh), James Wilkerson, Tyler Wilkerson, Kathleen Wilkerson Peil (Adam), Alex Robinson, Hannah Robinson, and Adele Robinson; and two great-grandchildren, Nathaniel and Henry Fedalen.
Memorials may be sent to Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church, 421 Oakland Avenue, Rock Hill, SC 29730 or Wayne T. Patrick Hospice House, P.O. Box 993, Rock Hill, SC 29731.