James “Jimmie” Humphries

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The dictionary describes a servant as a person devoted to another or to a cause, creed, etc. It also describes a patriot as one who loves and loyally or zealously supports one’s own community and country. Both of these words, along with many others, could equally describe James “Jimmie” Francis Humphries, who passed from this life on New Year’s Day 2014, at the age of 82. Jimmie graduated from Jena High School, and after receiving his B.S. Degree in Business Administration at Louisiana Tech University in 1954, he returned to Jena to join his father, M. F. Humphries, and his grandfather, C. I. Humphries, in the family business, Humphries Motors, Inc. The business was established in 1915 by Jimmie’s grandfather. Following the deaths of his grandfather and his father, Jimmie ran the business until it was sold in 1998, completing 83-years of history for the firm. At the time, Humphries Motors, Inc., was the third oldest business operating in La- Salle Parish – falling behind The Jena Times and Bank of Jena. For more than eight decades, the automobile dealership provided dependable transportation for thousands and thousands of area residents. In 1997, Jimmie was named the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association’s ‘Dealer of the Year’ and that same year was nominated to receive the 29th annual TIME Magazine Quality Dealer Award. Although for years, Jimmie was the face of Humphries Motors, he was more to the citizens of Jena and the area for his service as a public servant. In 1962, he was first elected as a  member of the Jena Town Council, where he would serve for the next 20 years. During his tenure as a council member, the Town of Jena twice won the coveted Louisiana Municipal Achievement Award, presented by the Louisiana Municipal Association. Many improvements were made in Jena during the 20-year span Jimmie served as one of Jena’s leading officials. Jimmie was always in the forefront leading causes for the betterment of Jena and its citizens. He believed in his community, his parish, his state and his country, and he was always promoting things to improve the quality of life for area citizens. Not only was Jimmie an active community leader, he served for 20 years on the Tensas Basin Levee District Board of Directors, and was a member of that board during the flood of 1973. He spent hundreds of hours helping to direct the fight against flood waters throughout the district. Jimmie also found time to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for Hospital Service District No. 2 – La- Salle General Hospital. He was instrumental in securing the “Meals on Wheels” program for LaSalle Parish through the LaSalle Council on Aging. His service as a member of the board of directors of Bank of Jena was invaluable to the business community of Jena. He was also an active member of the LaSalle Parish Fair
Association. Jimmie was a faithful lifetime member of First Baptist Church of Jena where he served on numerous committees including serving as Sunday School Superintendent. His love for his Savior, Jesus Christ, was demonstrated in his daily walk and the way he went out of his way to help others. I first met Jimmie Humphries in the fall of 1967 after I had moved to Jena to become editor of this newspaper. In January of 1968, after I had officially purchased the paper from the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert Wagner, Jimmie was one of the first to congratulate me and welcome me to Jena. He renewed his support for the parish newspaper and was a loyal advertiser until the business was sold. Over the next few years, a valuable and lasting friendship developed and as I look back over the past 40-plus years, I consider Jimmie one of the best friends I had in Jena. In 1974, with a member of the Jena Town Council wanting to retire, Jimmie and Mayor Orland “Cuz” Sandifer, approached me about seeking that vacancy, I agreed and a few months later was elected. For four years, I served with Jimmie and Norman Welch, Buddy Willis, and Jim Hall, as we worked to move Jena forward and make the town a nice place to call home. During those years of knowing this man, I found out the qualities of being a true servant of the people. I dare say that Jimmie helped more people during his lifetime than most of us – and he never wanted or sought any credit. During Jimmie’s memorial service on Saturday, several stories of how he helped others was shared. However, a number of people commented after the service that they too could have shared stories of Jimmie’s love for his community and fellow man. Each of us had special stories that we could have shared.
As memorial services should be, the one held for Jimmie was a time of reflection on his life and his contributions to his community. It was a sad time for me when I learned of his death last week, although after the suffering he had gone through during the past few years, I knew he was in a better place. But the memories will always linger in the back of my mind of the good times we had together – and the spirit of giving and caring that he gave to his fellow man. So, to his family, take comfort in knowing that your father, grandfather and great grandfather, was one of a kind. He touched the lives of thousands of people – and each one could tell you a kind story about him and how he touched their life. That was Jimmie Humphries. RIP-JFH.  
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