James Carl Stringer 1950 – 2021
When I was around nine years old, my oldest brother, Jimmy, gave me a brand-new Worth baseball bat. This was about the time that wooden bats were being replaced with aluminum and I remember him telling me not to hit rocks with it. Good advice applicable to either type of bat.
Being 16 years older than me, he enjoyed the diverse roles of being a big brother. He taught me how to shift a manual transmission in his faded red VW Beetle, though I was only 11 at the time. He explained what it meant to be a libertarian (the 1970’s variety) and told me that there was no such thing as a free lunch, this coming after a discussion of the new free lunch program at Skyland Elementary where I attended. These are but a few of the flood of memories that well up within me as I consider the impact that his life had and will continue to have on mine.
He practiced the art of skepticism and challenged me to think around corners especially in the areas of politics and business. He was from that last generation of college graduates who made a career in textiles. As a manager with a variety of textile companies, he was keenly aware of the effect that governmental policy had on the loss of textile jobs across the state. Through him I learned that labor has value and that having employment brings hope. He strongly advised me to start my own business which I followed. He was a pragmatist who never shied away from making the hard decision.
As a keen observer of human nature, he practiced the art of storytelling with great skill. He would have us laughing until we cried at family events with stories about his coming of age during the 1960s. He could see the humor in almost any situation. Many of his stories focused on his first high school job as a bag-boy at Bi-Lo Supermarket in Greer. In my mind’s eye, I can still see his description of the old security guard sitting with shotgun in hand on an elevated stand overlooking the store’s bookkeeping office just waiting to scatter lead at any random food thief who would dare pocket a can of potted meat. The fact that Jimmy ended up managing a Bi-Lo store while still in college stands as a testament to his work ethic and to his skill in dealing with the public.
He was an enthusiastic optimist who readily shared with those people who came into his life the tools to try. And that was all he expected of them and of me – that we would try. As I hold that old wooden Worth baseball bat now, I realize that he knew that I wasn’t bound for the major leagues, but his generosity and optimism served as a catalyst for me to expand my horizons. His kindness touched many people and like our sister who passed away in 2017, Jimmy’s influence on others remains a window for God’s grace to shine through.