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James R. Cothran

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James R. Cothran Obituary

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COTHRAN, James R. JAMES R. COTHRAN James R. Cothran, 71, of Atlanta, passed peacefully away on Sunday morning, January 29, 2012, with his wife and daughter by his side. For many people, the garden is the perfection of man's beauty on earth. Nowhere is this more evident than in the South, where creating beautiful spaces is a time-honored tradition. James "Jim" Robert Cothran also shared this passion. This renowned landscape architect, horticulturalist, urban planner, garden historian, historic preservationist, author, educator, civic leader, businessman, and mentor contributed significantly to preserving the beauty of the Southern landscape. Jim Cothran was born on April 29, 1940, in Greenwood, South Carolina. He was influenced at an early age where he worked nearby at Park Seed Company while a student at Clemson University. Jim graduated from Clemson in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture. After graduating he became a first lieutenant in the U.S Army. Upon leaving the military, Jim attended the University of Georgia and received a master in landscape architecture, 1969. Jim completed his Master of Science, City Planning, 1978 from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Jim has been a registered Landscape Architect in Georgia since 1971. Upon graduating from UGA in 1969, Jim moved to Atlanta and first worked for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in Atlanta. One year later, he joined the well-known planning and design firm of Robert and Company where he became a vice-president and would remain for another 42 years. During his time at the company, Jim was drawn to the satisfying nature of public work and civic design. Included among his hundreds of projects are the revitalization of Zoo Atlanta, the Olympic Master Plan Update for Stone Mountain Park, numerous downtown revitalization and streetscape plans for communities across Georgia, and planning for military bases, schools and other institutions. In recent years, Jim focused on developing a niche market for Historic Landscape Preservation. His most recent projects were plans for Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantations in Charleston, South Carolina. While at Robert and Company, Jim developed an interest in Urban Planning. One of his most notable achievements was the development of a document called the Georgia Townscape Conservation Program. This plan was funded through a grant Jim helped write and represented one of his first efforts in historic preservation. In 2002, he formed a coalition of preser- vationists to begin a statewide survey program for historic landscapes. This program was an outgrowth of the Historic American Landscape Survey, however Jim recognized that there was no federal funding to support this effort, so he took it upon himself to begin the program locally. To this day the program in Georgia has helped to document over 140 historic gardens. Later he helped lead survey efforts of South Carolina gardens. For many years, Jim was drawn to Southern gardens and Southern garden history. This research culminated in three books. His first book, Gardens of Historic Charleston, published in 1995. In 2001 he was instrumental in having the book Ladies' Southern Florist by Mary C. Rion republished. In 2003, he wrote the award winning book Gardens and Historic Plants of the Antebellum South, a seminal work that was the first of its kind of to comprehensively address the topic of Southern antebellum gardens. Most recently in 2010 he authored Charleston Gardens and the Landscape Legacy of Loutrel Briggs. In all, Jim published more than 15 articles promoting everything from historic garden tiles (of which he has a treasured collection) to historic plants. Jim taught Landscape Design Schools for the state garden clubs in Georgia and South Carolina. In 1990, Jim developed a Southern Garden History course in the Heritage Preservation graduate program at Georgia State University. Later in 2002, he began teaching similar courses at the University of Georgia. He remained an Adjunct Professor and Landscape Design Course instructor. Jim worked with others to expand the Cherokee Garden Library and since the 1990s has served in various leadership capacities. The Cherokee Garden Library became Jim's haven for historic research and in 2007 he donated a large collection of material to the library. Today, the Cothran Collection serves as an invaluable research tool for visitors to the library. Early in his career, a special bond was developed between Jim and the state Garden Clubs of Georgia and South Carolina. While a student at Clemson, he was the inaugural recipient of the Garden Club of South Carolina's scholarship. Since this time he has been considered a 54-year associate of the organization. Jim loved giving back and donating his time for lectures with both Garden Clubs. He assisted the Garden Club of South Carolina in their restoration of the Memorial Garden in Columbia in 2006. Over the course of his 44 years as a professional and educator, Jim served as a mentor to hundreds of students, co-workers, and peers who gravitated to Jim for expertise and willingness to expand the design and preservation profession with those who shared his love for gardens, landscape design, urban planning, and horticulture. One small reflection of Jim's outstanding career is the number of professional and personal awards he has received. He has been recognized over 30 times for specific projects, service, and books through various state and national awards. The American Society of Landscape Architects elected Jim as a Fellow in 2002 for his years of service to the profession. Mr. Cothran was active in several organizations including: Southern Garden History Society, The Alliance for Historic Landscape Architecture, The Garden Conservancy, Trees Atlanta, The Cherokee Garden Library, Hills and Dales Historic House and Garden in LaGrange, GA, The Founder's Memorial Garden in Athens, GA, ASLA, Georgia's Historic House and Garden Pilgrimage, and The Rotary Club. Over his career Jim received numerous awards including: 2007 Historic Preservation Award for The Garden Club of America, 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award for the University of Georgia, 2005 Award of Honor for The National Garden Clubs, Inc., 2005 The Helen Kohn Henning Award of Excellence for Historic Columbia Foundation, 2004 Honor Award with American Society of Landscape Architects, 2004 President's Award with ASLA, and 2004 Annual Literature Award for his contribution to the book "Gardens and Historic Plants of the Antebellum South" with the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, Inc. Beyond the accolades, professional achievements, and books he wrote, Jim Cothran will be remembered for his wonderful personality, his infectious laughter, and his passion for life. Although Jim has passed away, his spirit will remain alive in those who had the opportunity to spend time with him. He is survived by his wife, Lynn; his daughter, Caroline Cothran Augustin; son-in-law, Patrick Augustin; granddaughter, Anna Katherine Augustin; sister, Mary Francis White; and innumerable friends, co-workers, students, and garden-lovers. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Cherokee Garden Library or the Endowment for the Founders Memorial Garden, c/o Stephanie Crockatt, 603 Caldwell Hall, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-1845. A Memorial Mass will be Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 10 o'clock at The Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Rd., NE, Atlanta, GA 30305. A memorial reception honoring his life will be held on Friday, February 3, 2012 from 3 to 5 o'clock at the Cherokee Garden Library, 130 West Paces Ferry Rd., NW, Atlanta, GA 30305.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 1, 2012
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