Hereford, city attorney, dies at 65

Posted on Monday, January 9, 2012 at 4:29 pm

James Strong (Jim) Hereford, Jr., a longtime Fayetteville attorney and community leader, died Sunday (Jan. 8, 2012). He was 65.

Hereford had served as city attorney to the City of Fayetteville since December 2008. He was also a former Fayetteville alderman and former Lincoln County commissioner.

“Jim Hereford was a true southern gentleman,” said John Ed Underwood, Fayetteville mayor. “Jim was proud of his family heritage, proud of being from Kelso and proud of his family today … He was a great asset to our community and invaluable to the City of Fayetteville.

“I first remember his instrumental work as a county commissioner in the late ’80s developing the bylaws of what would become the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Industrial Development Board,” said the mayor. “We also worked together in the early 2000s, and I always found him to be passionate about everything he did.

“I appreciated that about him, and I also appreciated his tireless work for the city, his insight and the respect he had earned not only locally but also across the state,” Underwood added. “Jim had a lot of connections, too, and he was always glad to use them for our community’s benefit … We will miss him for a long time to come.”

“It was a privilege to have known and worked with Jim Hereford,” said Mark Clark, a former Fayetteville mayor and current chairman of the Fayetteville Board of Education. “I first met Jim in 1989 when he was one of our community’s key elected officials who helped create the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Industrial Development Board. Jim was a county commissioner at the time, and I remember first being introduced to him at a picnic hosted by the city aldermen and county commissioners who had selected those of us who would serve as the Industrial Board’s first board of directors.

“From 1998 until 2002, Jim and I served together on Fayetteville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and we accomplished many things in that timeframe due to his vision, his intellect, and his passion for making our community a better place to live and do business. I always respected Jim’s willingness to do what he thought was right for our community, regardless of any political fallout.

“In recent years, I was excited to see him appointed to serve as city attorney, and I appreciated so much his wise counsel on a number of issues, both personally and professionally,” Clark continued. “Jim was someone I knew I could totally trust, both his sense of confidentiality and his wisdom and judgment regarding what was best for our community.

“I’ve never known anyone who loved – truly loved – Fayetteville and Lincoln County as much as Jim Hereford did,” he said. “Whenever he spoke of our community – its past, present, or future – he got teary-eyed. He was a totally dedicated ambassador for our community, and I know he was a positive influence on many others as he led and promoted community efforts.

“Jim was very blessed to have such a supportive wife and friend in Bonnie,” said Clark. “Their marriage was obviously filled with tremendous love and admiration, just the way God designed marriage to be!

“Jim probably never fully appreciated the profound impact he made on me and the degree to which I respected and admired him,” he added. “I have definitely lost a true friend, confidant, and mentor. Indeed, all of us in Fayetteville and Lincoln County have lost a true leader and friend.”

Lynn Wampler, who retired in 2006 as city administrator here, also commented on the loss of his friend.

“If you asked Jim to do something for you, you could rest assured that it would be done right, not half way,” said Wampler. “I always considered Jim a friend – he would tell you what he thought, sometimes abruptly, but you could sit down with him and work through any problem. He cared about what he did, and he was going to do the best he could with it.”

“We are all mourning the loss of a community leader and a dear friend,” said Dr. Janine Wilson, director of Fayetteville City Schools. “Though I have known Jim for many years, I have worked closely with him since he was appointed city attorney.  He was always willing to do the research to find the answer to any problem, and collaborate to find the best solution for the community.

“On a personal note, we spent many hours discussing genealogy since he discovered long ago that we were cousins,” Wilson added. “He was actually proud of that and that gave cause for many laughs between us. Jim was a professional attorney who was interested in Fayetteville/Lincoln County and its progress, a ‘one-of-a-kind’ character who had a huge heart, which he tried to hide at times, and, was my dear friend.  My condolences go to Bonnie, Rufus and the rest of the family.”

A native of Lincoln County, he was the son of the late James S. Hereford Sr. and Nell Cowley Hereford.

He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Carter Hereford; one brother, Rufus T. Hereford, and wife, Margaret, of Fayetteville; his mother-in-law, Margaret Carter, also of Fayetteville; his sister-in-law, Julia Carter West, and husband, Butch, of Columbia; several nieces and nephews; and a host of family and friends.

Mr. Hereford graduated from the Old Central High School in Fayetteville in 1964, attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He graduated from UT with a bachelor’s degree in finance and, having enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, became a Distinguished Military Graduate. He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era as a lieutenant in the Armor Corps, obtaining the Airborne Badge and the Army Commendation Medal. Subsequently, he attended and graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Law.

He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville, where he had formerly served as an elder and finance committee chair. He was also a member of American Legion Post 42, Vietnam Veterans of America, Fayetteville Rotary Club, Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Bar Association, and the Tennessee Bar Association. Additionally, Mr. Hereford was a founding officer of the Joseph Greer Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Mr. Hereford was elected to the Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 1998 to complete the term of Steve Broadway, who went off the board to serve as city attorney. Then Hereford was re-elected in 2000. Over the past two decades, he has been very involved in numerous community efforts and was pleased to have supported such projects as the Kelly Pittenger Senior Citizens Center, KidsPark, and the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Animal Shelter, where he and Bonnie adopted Hershey, their devoted dog, and their cat, Winston.

As an alderman, he served as a member of the Fayetteville Public Utilities board of directors during the consolidation of the Fayetteville Electric System, Fayetteville Gas System and Fayetteville Water and Sewer Department. He had also served as a member of the Oversight Committee for the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Industrial Development Board.

Prior to his service on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Mr. Hereford served on the Lincoln County Commission from 1988-89 and as a commissioner was instrumental in organizing the joint Fayetteville/Lincoln County Industrial Development Corp. He was also a former vice president of the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, vice chair and director of the Tennessee Valley Aerospace Region and past Nominating Committee chair on the Motlow College Private Industry Council.

Visitation with the family is Monday night from 4 until 7 p.m. at Higgins Funeral Home. Funeral services will be conducted Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. in the chapel of Higgins Funeral Home with the Rev. Todd Jenkins, Bill Nunley and Terry Abernathy officiating. Burial will follow in Kelso Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Humane Society, Fayetteville/Lincoln County Library or Fayetteville First Presbyterian Church.

Higgins Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

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