James Robert Schoolfield, Sr., age 94, was born on December 15, 1923, in Pikeville, Tennessee and passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Sunday morning, January 14 at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
He was the son of Emory Lurton Schoolfield (1888-1958), and Beulah Maude Pankey Schoolfield (1890-1980).
He was preceded in his passing by sisters, Frances Emory Schoolfield (1914-1929), Beulah Edith Schoolfield (1932-1979), Martha Phyllis Schoolfield Campbell (1917-2001), and Anna Elizabeth Schoolfield McReynolds (1919-2006).
James Robert, as he was called by family, then later Jimmy, and his family grew and prospered in Pikeville- his father Lurton being a prominent business man. In 1929 when Jimmy was six years old, the family lost their oldest child, Frances, to pneumonia. A few short months later as the family still mourned, the stock market crashed ushering in the Great Depression.
In December 1941, Jimmy was little more than a week away from his 18th birthday when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on October 31, 1942, “for the duration plus six months.” Like many of his peers, Jimmy interrupted his high school education to join the service and defend his country. After basic training and further specialization as a flight engineer, Jimmy was sent overseas with the Third Combat Cargo Group, 329th Airdome Squadron, where he spent 11 months in the China Burma India Theater.
According to his discharge report, while on active duty Jimmy was awarded the following: The Good Conduct Medal, The Air Medal “for flying more than 100 hours in a heavily loaded transport plane over enemy lines in the face of probably enemy fire,” The World War Two Victory Medal, The American Theater Ribbon, and The Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with
Three Bronze Service Stars. He was honorably discharged in December 1945 with the rank of Sergeant. Jimmy was later recalled for the Korean War in September 1950, then honorably discharged in September 1951.
During the post-war years Jimmy returned to Pikeville and resumed his education by completing his G.E.D., and later attending The University of Tennessee on the G.I. Bill. More importantly for us, his children, he married our mother, Hannah Tom Robnett, on May 10, 1947. On New Years Day, 1949, Dad moved his wife and baby into the small two-bedroom house on Highway 30 where they would raise a family of five; including four boys and one girl, in a marriage of over 70 years.
Dad continued in the lumber business and was active in The American Legion, serving as Post Commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Forty and Eight. Mom was active in these veteran organizations, too. He was a member of St. Elmo Lodge #437 F&AM.
He was a faithful member of the Pikeville United Methodist Church and made sure we all attended. Dad was an intelligent man who loved learning. He was an autodidact, reading all the time. He encouraged his children to work hard in school, resulting in four bachelor’s degrees, three master’s degrees, and one Educational Specialist degree. Similarly, the grandchildren thus far have earned six bachelors degrees and two masters degrees, with the youngest grandchild just beginning college. As the vast number of degrees are in education, this is almost enough to start a small college.
Dad worked hard all his life well into his 80s before his health began its decline. Dad was at Erlanger Hospital with congestive heart failure when the Lord called him home.
He is survived by Hannah Tom Robnett Schoolfield, wife of over 70 years; sons, James Robert Schoolfield, Junior, Thomas Lurton Schoolfield, William Robnett Schoolfield, John David Schoolfield; and daughter, Frances Suzanne Schoolfield Sapp; seven grandchildren; ten great grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Funeral services were held Saturday, January 20, at 1:00 p.m. in the funeral home chapel with Rev. Greg Smart officiating.
Burial will be in Pikeville Cemetery.
Online condolences can be made at www.reedfamilyfh.com.
Arrangements are by Putnam-Reed Funeral Home, Pikeville.