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James SMITHSON

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Family-Placed Death Notice

SMITHSON, James JAMES ALLEN "JIM" SMITHSON James Allen "Jim" Smithson, 78, passed away peacefully at home on April 30, 2012 after battling a long, courageous fight with Parkinson's disease. A Memorial Service will be held on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 2:00 PM at the First Baptist Church Chapel. Mr. Smithson was born in Toledo, OH on August 25, 1933. When he was nine months old, he moved to Atlanta with his mother and sister. He spent his young summers at the family farm in Mossy Creek, White County. He grew up in Atlanta's Techwood Homes Federal Housing Project without a father, where he gained an appreciation for affordable housing and the dire need for organizations like the Boys & Girls Club. He graduated from O'Keefe High School as a basketball star and then attended Young Harris College on basketball scholarship. He continued his college career at Georgia State University by attending night classes. He then served two years as a Military Police in the US Army. Mr. Smithson had strong ties to Young Harris College, and while attending a childhood summer camp there, he met his lifelong friend, Zell Miller. This friendship led to Mr. Smithson running Mr. Miller's first campaign for public office with the U.S. Congress. As a youth, Mr. Smithson learned a strong, unmatched work ethic to help take care of his family, and at age nine, he ran a paper route in downtown Atlanta. He loved to reminisce about working the Tech Football games selling cokes and hotdogs. He worked throughout high school at Jacob's Drugstore as a soda jerk, learning to make his famous milkshakes that he shared with his children over the years. To help his mother pay bills, he dropped out of high school for a year to work various jobs, including ushering at Techwood Theatre. As an adult, he never passed the Varsity without stopping....a place he considered home cooking. While working at Miller & Miller, he met his long time friend and partner, Tom Cheek. After returning home from service in the Army, they soon established Vintage Enterprises (Colonial Homes), a mobile home manufacturer and retailer operating throughout the Southeast and Midwest. Mr. Smithson served as Chairman of the Board of Vintage Enterprises. The first Gainesville mobile home retail lot opened in 1959, followed by the Gainesville manufacturing plant which opened in 1965. The company operated in 20 states and had 7 manufacturing plants. Vintage Homes was taken public in 1969 on the American Stock Exchange. Mr. Smithson later sold his stake to Allen & Co. of New York. Mr. Smithson had an enormous heart and gave unselfishly of his time, money, and energy to the causes he believed in. He was a loyal friend and supporter of the Boys & Girls Club of Hall County giving generously as well as by volunteering countless hours to support the mission of the Club. Over the years, he built a ball field for the children, gave the land and building at the current location, gifted the land for their Lake Lanier property, and donated the building and six acres for the Oakwood Location. Mr. Smithson served on the boards of Gainesville College, Young Harris College, Lakeview Academy, Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, Hall County Community Chest, Gainesville National Bank, Wachovia Advisory Board and the Boys and Girls Club of Hall County. His generosity has left footprints all over Gainesville, including providing a preschool for First Baptist Church, and funding the start of Lakeview Academy. He also quietly supported The Salvation Army, Gainesville College, Brenau College, The University of Georgia and Challenged Child. Despite his great financial success and all he did for his community, he would consider his devotion and love for his family as his greatest accomplishment. He will be remembered lovingly by his children and grandchildren as a wonderful Dad and Granddad. He will be remembered for all the great breakfasts he cooked, teaching his children how to water and snow ski, cheering them on at sporting events, but most of all, for his unconditional love and legacy as a role model, and for his courageous and fighting spirit. Mr. Smithson is survived by his six children: Sons and daughters-in-law, Jay and Mary Smithson, Joe and Karin Smithson, Eric and Lindsay Smithson, Jamie and Colby Smithson; Daughters, Nancy Gay Smithson and Ashley Smithson; Ten grandchildren: James, Claire, Aaron, Peter, Wright, Jackie, West, Elise, Hoyte and Wynn; Sister and brother-in-law, Delores and Milton Bennett; and Ex-Wife, Susan Smithson. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, P.O. Box 49416, Atlanta, GA 30359; The Boys and Girls Club of Hall County, P.O. Box 691, Gainesville, GA 30504; and the Salvation Army, 681 Dorsey St., Gainesville, GA 30501. Those wishing to make online condolences may do so at www.littledavenport.com. Little & Davenport Funeral Home 355 Dawsonville Hwy, Gainesville, GA 30501 is in charge of arrangements.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 3, 2012
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