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Obituary: Dr. James Terrell Tollett

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Dr. James Terrell Tollett, 88, passed away Friday April 26, 2024. He died peacefully with his wife and daughter present, at a Tyler hospital. Cremation arrangements handled by Erman Smith Funeral Home. A Memorial Service will be held at First Baptist Church of Pittsburg, Texas, May 18 at 2:00 p.m. The Internment service will be held at Belleville Cemetery, Lockesburg, Ark., June 8 at 1:00 p.m.

James Terrell was born in Nashville Ark., in 1935, to Vergil and Gladys Tollett. He was the eldest of 8 children, four boys followed by four girls. They were raised on a family farm at the end of the Great Depression, in the rural south, and he knew hard work and responsibility at an early age. He was faithful in service to his family and dedicated to his studies. He was a determined athlete who played only one year of gridiron in high school but managed to make the all-state team. 

Jim started college life at Southern Arkansas College before going on to complete his B.S. at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He continued to the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he received his Doctorate in Animal Sciences in 1961. He formed lifelong connections during those years as an agricultural student that remained throughout his career and retirement. 

Dr. Tollett had a distinguished career in both academia and agribusiness. He taught at South Arkansas University his first year out of graduate school. He was then recruited by Dow Chemical Co. to work in agricultural research, starting in Lake Jackson, Texas. His career expanded overseas, and he was based for several years in Sydney, Australia, as Manager of the South Pacific where he traveled extensively for work and with his family. He took early retirement from Dow after 20 years and returned to his first love, teaching, where he continued to work for another 20 years. 

Dr. Tollett was part of the start up team at Northeast Texas Community College as Head of the Agricultural program for several years. He then returned to Southern Arkansas University to finish his teaching career where it all began and retired from SAU in 2008. He worked tirelessly to enrich and expand the agricultural program and department. He fostered a team atmosphere among students and faculty and that was appreciated by many. “Doc” was a tough but fair professor and would go to great lengths to help those he could, both academically and personally. He was instrumental in obtaining scholarships and recruiting students to the agricultural program. He was a great advocate for his students and provided many influential recommendations and connections within the agribusiness community.

Jim Tollett was involved in service throughout his life. From college on, he was proud to be a judge at livestock shows and received recognition and awards for his keen eye and knowledgeable decisions. He enjoyed officiating football games during his time in Texas and Michigan.  Jim was a lifelong, contributing and honored member, of the Lion’s Club and FFA. He served with Gideons International, was a long time Sunday School teacher and served as a deacon at First Baptist, Pittsburg. He was involved in various boards and was a regular part of community events and fundraisers in whatever town he was living in. He saw this as part of living a decent and productive life and willingly gave of himself to contribute to the well fare of his community.  

He remained active in retirement, both civically and professionally. He enjoyed spending time at early morning prayer breakfasts, visiting colleagues or local businesses and catching up with old friends and students. He did free lance agricultural appraisals for some area banks. He worked one day a week as a consultant for Texas Country Farm Supply until a few months before his death, saying he would be back to work in awhile. Go to that good rest, Jim. Your job is complete. You have done enough. 

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Joann (Latimer). He leaves behind one daughter, Cheryl Jacobs, three grandsons – Josiah, Justin and Brandon Jacobs, as well as, a great granddaughter, Harper and great grandson, Miles. He is survived by all of his siblings. Brothers — Leland, Eugene and Edwin Tollett and sisters, Mary McFarland, Martha Darst, Virginia Fletcher and Barbara Slatton. 

Throughout the years, Papa Jim, acquired other precious, honorary family members. He was a steadfast example of an honorable, kind and upright man who enfolded many of the young people he worked with at church and school into his personal family life. He loved those “Ag Kids” and he always looked forward to connecting with his special “acquired” kids – Sherry Thomas, Ahn Lam, Selena Sievertson, Russell Legion among others. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the:  Dr. James T. Tollett Agricultural Scholarship. Mail to: 100 E. University St.  MSC 9174  SAU, Magnolia, AR  71753; First Baptist Church of Pittsburg, 300 Jefferson Street, Pittsburg, TX 75686; or the Charity of your choice. 

The family thanks you for sharing this time with us and we appreciate all the care, love and support shown by so many. Although we are saddened at the present, we rejoice in the promise of tomorrow.

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