Small town boy makes good

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James Charles Taylor just may be the most accomplished person to ever come out of Hogansville, GA. Hogansville, a town of just over 3,000 people, is close to the same size it was in 1937 when Jim Taylor was born.

Jim was the son of Norman and Clyde Truitt Taylor, but he barely knew his father, who left when Jim was about 18 months old. When Jim was a pre-teen, his mother married Jim Martin who became his true and excellent Dad.

He loved school and he became a life-long learner, a practice that never ceased. In addition to Jimmy Martin, another influence and role-model was Coach Mike Castronis, a deeply religious and pious man who  had enormous presence and had been an All-SEC and All-American tackle at the University of Georgia. He took young Jim under his wing and became a person that Jim would admire and would write about in an autobiographical statement 60 years later.

After graduating from Hogansville High School in 1955 he enrolled in the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, later to be known as Auburn University. He enrolled in the Air Force ROTC and after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF where he served for 6 and a half years.

He resigned his commission as a Captain in the USAF and re-entered Auburn and earned a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering. As a result of his work at Auburn, he was hired as a civilian to work for the Department of the Navy and moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Naval Systems Command for six years and was recruited by the Department of the Air Force.

He worked in the Pentagon for 7 and a half years where he managed the budget and directed the research activities of the Air Force Systems Command at Wright AFB. He rose rapidly in the civilian ranks at the Pentagon and reached GS-15, the civilian equivalent of a colonel. After leaving the Department of Defense, he continued consulting with government agencies and civilian companies who deal with government agencies.

Along the way, Jim found time to earn a Master of Aerospace Engineering from Auburn. At George Washington University in Washington, D.C., he completed all the work for a Doctor of Science Engineering and Applied Science, except for the dissertation. He attended Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling, VA and earned an Associate of Arts degree in Music. He also earned a Master of Science in Group and Individual Psychology from Marymount University.

He audited several master’s level courses at St. Michael’s Seminary and, in 2009, received the Doctor of Pastoral Counseling degree from Andersonville Theological Seminary, summa cum laude, at the age of 72.

Over the years, he taught Bible classes, served as a youth pastor and music director in several churches, was in administrative positions, was even a prison chaplain, and filled the pulpit at numerous churches.

Upon moving to Peachtree City, he and Karen, his wife, became extremely active and were leaders in the city’s Community Emergency Response Team. Jim became a counselor and chaplain for the Jobseekers organization, was an appointed and state certified police chaplain in the Peachtree City Police Department and served as an auxiliary chaplain at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. He was then hired as an associate chaplain, and later as a full-time chaplain.

Jim was a Board-certified chaplain in several specialties by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy and was an instructor in the Clinical Pastoral Education(CPE) program at the hospital. He was the founder and convener of the Fayetteville, GA Chapter of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy and quite a number of his CPE graduates were board certified under his influence.

Jim was raised a Baptist and Karen a Catholic and in Christ the King, the church I serve, they felt they had the best of both worlds. In 2008 Jim was licensed as a Eucharist Minister and entered the Holy Orders process. In 2009 he was certified by Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council as a law enforcement chaplain.

In 2010, he was ordained as a Deacon and on June 11, 2011, he was elevated to the priesthood. In June 2016, he was installed as the Canon of Hospital and Spiritual Care Ministries in the Diocese of the Mid-South.

After struggling with some health problems, Jim very reluctantly retired from the hospital. Jim recently completed work on a Chaplain’s Manual, unpublished as of this date, during this retirement period. Oh, and did I mention that, somehow in this long and storied career, he managed to write six books on Project Management?

With all his accomplishments he was an incredibly humble man. He never mentioned his accomplishments to anyone at his church until he absolutely had to during the Holy Orders process. After his initial interview, one of the priests on the commission questioning him said later,  “I think I’ve just met the smartest man I ve ever known.”

I had known him for years before I learned that he was a member of the Mensa Society, the oldest High IQ Society in the world. He was not puffed up. He was neither insecure nor boastful. He was perfectly happy being who he was: Chaplain Taylor, Father Jim, or just plain Jim.

He wrote poetry, mostly to Karen, his wife. He was artistic, creative, intellectual, a man of integrity, he was a learner, a teacher, a friend, a mentor, a painter, he had a passion for reading, and he had a zest for life. Jim had a sense of humor, sometimes dry, sometimes not.

When I enrolled in Jim’s CPE classes, I later discovered that Jim’s supervisor did not want me in his class because of our relationship outside the hospital. I was his priest and bishop after all. But it all worked out fine. He knew how to be a leader and I know how to be a learner.

I cannot think of a better day for a man like Jim, a Christian, chaplain, and priest, to depart this life for the next than Easter Sunday.

At the age of 85, on Easter, The Rev’d Canon Dr. James Taylor became absent from the body and present with the Lord. Of all the accolades, accomplishment, and honors Jim received in his life, all paled in comparison and were reduced to insignificance when he heard these words of Jesus: “Well, done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Well done, indeed, faithful friend. For a boy from a broken home and from a small town in rural Georgia, you did exceedingly well. You will not be soon forgotten. I’ll see you later.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemic, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]