A man who was described as one who wore many hats and helped mold young lives in Cleveland and Bradley County will be sadly missed. Col. James H. Tucker passed away Friday.
Tucker spent more than 20 years as executive director for the Boys Club of Cleveland, which is now known as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland.
“He was a very dedicated man and loved his kids,” said Bobby Greene, a member of the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland. “To a lot of past members, he was like a father to them. I was in college when he came to the club, but he still helped guide me through.”
Greene also said he interviewed for a job to work with Tucker, but turned it down.
A few years later, instead of working for Tucker at the Boys Club, Greene said he would work with him through the direction of the board. The two men also spent time together after Tucker retired.
Tucker began to make a difference in the Cleveland/Bradley County community in 1970, when he retired from the Air Force and was selected as the executive director of the Boys Club of Cleveland.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, he spent 21 years in the military — two years in the U.S. Navy and 19 years in the Air Force. He was stationed in Savannah, Ga., when he met his wife, Fran. The couple raised four sons. He served his country in several parts of the world, including Newfoundland, England, California, Nebraska and Georgia. His attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
“Jim Tucker has been an inspiration to me, and I know he was to Brenda (Abel, retired United Way president and CEO) as well, and all of us at United Way mourn his passing,” said Matt Ryerson, United Way president and CEO. “He has been such a large part of the history of our organization, not only with his service with the Boys and Girls Clubs, but as a United Way board member.
“Jim was a treasure for our community. It is rare when one person has such a significant impact with so many. To say he will be missed just doesn’t seem to cover it,” Ryerson added.
Ryerson said United Way of Bradley County created the Jim Tucker Award in 2012 to recognize a United Way service partner for his or her long-term service and dedication to the community.
Tucker retired from executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs in 1992 and continued giving to the community through his work with Habitat for Humanity.
“Jim was a personal friend to many of us and was a man of incredible character with a heart for those less fortunate. His impact on the community (as director of the Boys and Girls Clubs) and more specifically on everyone and everything at Habitat was amazing,” said Matt Carlson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity.
“Jim was a part of Habitat in the early years as a board member, committee member and filled many roles for Habitat over the years. Mr. Tucker was a personal mentor to me and taught me the true meaning of ‘community’, showed me that one person standing up to help others could really make a difference in the world around him,” Carlson added.
Carlson notified the board of directors Saturday of Tucker’s passing.
Greene said four former Boys Club of Cleveland members continue to work with clubs in other parts of the U.S.
“These men have spent over 30 years in their jobs after being raised up under Col. Tucker,” Greene said.
“They are just a few men who will continue to carry on his legacy,” Greene added.
According to his long-time assistant at the club, Jackie Gibson said in an interview in 2002 that Tucker “was always accessible to the children and very active in all aspects of their lives,” said Gibson.
“They came to him with their personal problems, and he celebrated their victories and defended them when they were wrongly accused. He treated them like they were truly his own. He would take them on vacation, settle their disputes and always encourage them to do their best.”