James Louis Starnes
February 12, 1921 – March 8, 2016
James Louis Starnes died peacefully Tuesday night, March 8th, less than a month after his 95th birthday. He touched the lives of many people, and was a loving son, a naval officer, an entrepreneur, a successful businessman, a great "Daddy" to all his children, and a valued member of society. A primary school teacher left an indelible impression on him when she told the class that she wished she had a hundred Jimmie Starnes. That and the strength and encouragement of his mother propelled him to an unshakable belief in himself. He was an eagle scout, a national merit scholar, a voracious reader and a life long student with many and varied interests. He lived a full life, traveled the world, spoke to thousands while being a father to seven children, and a mentor and roll model to countless others.
Born February 12, 1921 in Little Rock Arkansas to James Lucius Starnes and Maude Ellen White Starnes, the family soon moved home to Georgia. Jim, the second of three children, grew up in Decatur. He had a little brother, Leslie who died of polio when only six years old. The family lived on Ponce de Leon Avenue for many years. He attended school there, graduating in 1939 from Decatur Boys High School, and then beginning his college education at Emory University.
He interrupted his education by enlisting in the US Navy at age 19 when he was offered a chance to attend officer training school in Annapolis, Maryland. His naval career began after graduating with a group called the 90-day wonders, a select group of young men chosen to take accelerated training in hopes of building up the officer corps quickly in case of hostilities. He was commissioned an officer in the US Navy and ordered to Pearl Harbor to serve onboard the USS Boise. Less than a year later his ship, headed to the Philippines unknowingly passed south of a Japanese fleet on its way to attack Pearl Harbor. After the attack, the family could not receive word regarding his safety. He would not be able to reach them for several months. Lt. Commander Starnes saw extensive combat at Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. Jim's beloved sister Frances also joined the Navy as a nurse and was stationed in San Diego, California. His parents displayed a blue ribbon in their front window with two stars indicating two soldiers were serving from that house.
On January 15th, 1943, Jim married his childhood sweetheart, Rose Evelyn Courtenay while on leave from the USS Boise.
He served as ship's navigator on board the Boise, and later in the war on the USS Missouri. By tradition the ship's navigator is the officer of the deck when the ship is in a foreign port. This put the responsibility of hosting the surrender ceremonies on him. He hand picked the tallest crew members to form the phalanx of sailors the visitors would be obliged to walk through. He procured the table upon which the surrender documents would be signed, from the mess hall, and had it covered with a green tablecloth. Under orders from General MacArthur to start and end on time the young officer did his duty and all watched as the historic ceremony concluded with a majestic flyover, filing the sky with hundreds of allied planes.
He came home from the war to a wife and baby daughter and lived with Rosie's parents, John and Cora Courtenay on the Lawrenceville Highway. During this time he finished his college education on the GI Bill graduating from Emory University with a Law degree. He started his professional career in real estate and mortgage banking after a short stint at a brokerage firm. On December 15, 1949 he was working across the street from the Lowes Grand Theater when "Gone with the Wind" had it's premier. In 1952 he started his own company with long time friend Frank Roberts. Together for the next ten years they provided home mortgages for the booming southeastern region centered in Atlanta. James Starnes was President of the Atlanta Real Estate Board and the first recipient of the MAI designation among the mortgage bankers association.
The family lived on Lullwater Road in Druid Hills where he and Rose Evelyn raised four children. They were active members of the Glenn Memorial Methodist Church with Jim holding the position of treasurer and chairman of the board. Rose Evelyn was an accomplished artist, supportive and loving wife, and was always active in the lives of her four children, her church and the Druid Hills Community. Rosie died of cancer in 1960 at the age of 38.
In 1961 Jim married the former Betty Ruth Hughen of Dallas, Texas and adopted her three children as his own to create a large blended family. From 1962 to 1974 he was the CEO of Phipps Harrington Corporation, Senior Vice President of Phipps Land Company from 1974 to 1976. He and Betty then moved to Charlotte N.C. where he served as chairman of the board and president of the NCNB Mortgage Corporation. Memberships included, Atlanta Board of Realtors (President, 1960, 1961 the last president to serve two terms), Mortgage Bankers Association (past governor), American Institute Real Estate Appraisers, Certified Mortgage Bankers and Mortgage Bankers Association. In 1980 Jim followed Betty into her work with the direct marketing, health and wellness company, Nikken. With Betty's positive outlook, love of people, and great marketing sense, she helped them build a Diamond distributorship. Jim continued actively running and building their business until the end of his life, never thinking of retirement. He and Betty were happily married and in love for fifty years until she died at their home in Park Springs Community in Stone Mountain, in 2011.
Jim's direct family line extends back to the early 1800's in Eastern Georgia. Seaborn White, his great grandfather was killed at Champion Hill in the Civil War. His mother Maude grew up in a house in Atlanta across the street from the State capitol where Jimmy and his sister Frances played as children.
Predeceased by his parents, his siblings, two wives, a child and a grandchild, Jim is survived by six of his seven children: Courtenay Starnes (Warren) Budd, of Newnan, Bonnie Starnes (Deceased), of San Francisco, Leslie Starnes (Dacia), of Marietta, John Starnes (Teresa), of Marietta, Mark Starnes (Forrest), of Roswell, Teresa Starnes Campbell (Jeff), of Duluth, Randy Starnes, (Susan), of Los Angeles, California. Jim also leaves behind 15 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and one great, great granddaughter, named Rosie.
James Starnes had a long full life and was fortunate to have two wonderful marriages. His morning ritual included giving thanks to God and declaring that he was happy, healthy and in love. He claimed that he wasn't born a gentleman, but worked very hard to become one. His family, friends, and caregivers loved him and he was happy and active riding around on his electric scooter to visit friends until his last day. He closed his eyes, let out a breath, and passed gently out of this life. A gentle end for a true Southern gentleman.