Few who know him, and who remember his 22-year career as executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, would argue that Jim Tucker from 1970 to 1992 was the face of the local organization whose priority was always the young people of our Cleveland and Bradley County community.
In his Boys & Girls Clubs years, Jim Tucker was everything ... to the civic-minded organization, to its young members, to the families who benefited from their children’s participation at the Third Street facility and to his staff, whose members grew in maturity and in their ability to reach out to youngsters in need of a big brother, big sister, father or mother figure.
Jim Tucker also served as another bridge — one that connected the Boys & Girls Clubs to its primary funding source, United Way of Bradley County Inc.
The two agencies enjoyed a close partnership, one whose benefits were mutual because Jim was always the first to point to United Way as the reason the Boys & Girls Clubs thrived in Cleveland, and United Way always beamed at recognizing the Boys & Girls Clubs as one of its member agencies.
Charlie Sutton, current Boys & Girls Clubs executive director, recently submitted a news release to our newspaper announcing Tucker’s induction into the Tennessee Hall of Fame. His glowing words on Tucker’s leadership, and those whose lives he touched, were endearing reminders of how this kind and gentle man made such a difference during his long tenure.
“[Jim] was always accessible to the children and very active in all aspects of their lives,” the statement said. “They came to him with their personal problems for answers and comfort. He celebrated their victories and defended them when they were wrongfully accused. Jim treated each and every child as if they were his own, taking them to various places across the Southeast, settling their disputes and always encouraging them to do their best.”
This was truly Jim Tucker. He never considered it his job. It was his life.
The statement continues, “Many of the boys from the club came from broken homes and had no father figure for guidance. Jim Tucker became the father figure that hundreds of boys needed.”
This too was truly Jim Tucker. He was a man of vision, yet one who didn’t see skin color, gender or social class among his kids. He saw only young people and the promise they held for the future of their community.
In accepting his Tennessee Hall of Fame induction, Tucker offered, “In my years as director, nothing pleased me more than to see my boys grow up and be successful in the community.”
He saw many — during his two decades as executive director, and beyond, as “his” kids grew up and became role models inside and outside their hometown.
In spite of his 1992 “retirement” as executive director, Jim continued working closely with the Boys & Girls Clubs as a resource development officer. He was responsible for the development of two educational endowments that sent many of the organization’s youngsters to college.
In 2004, the organization offered its ultimate tribute to this dedicated community servant. The facility at 385 Third St. was named the James H. Tucker Unit.
Even following his career years at the Boys & Girls Clubs, Jim has remained in public life by continuing to make a difference. For years, he has volunteered at Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland Inc.
Some men are natural leaders whose unending commitment is to the well-being of others.
Some men always place the needs of others before their own.
Some men believe in the potential of all young minds.
One such man is Jim Tucker.
We applaud his selection into the Tennessee Boys & Girls Clubs Hall of Fame.