Norman’s service not forgotten,
pranks to be missed
By AMY S. LANSDON
Jim Tom Norman, a man who devoted the last 60 years of his life successfully pursuing the American Dream of personal and economic prosperity in a small Pike County community, will long be remembered by those who knew him.
Norman came to Goshen in 1940 to work for his brother-in-law at a general store, and lived and worked in the small community until his death on May 28, 2000.
"The general store sold everything from washing machines and dryers to guns, food and nails," said Jimmy Norman, Jim Tom’s son. "I call it the first Wal-Mart because you could get anything there.
Jimmy said his father worked at the general store for several years before getting into the lumber business and starting the first lumber treatment plant in southeast Alabama. Eventually, Jim Tom moved out of the lumber business and into the trucking business, and hauled peanuts for Anderson Peanuts of Goshen, Jimmy said.
But despite widespread working interests, work wasn’t the only thing that was part of life for Jim Tom. He had a deep sense of family and a strong love for his wife, Grace Shirley Norman, who preceded him in death by 10 years.
There weren’t many people who talked to Jim Tom that didn’t hear stories about the wife he loved so much, folks in Goshen say. On more than one occasion he would invite people at the Circle S Diner in Goshen to come by the house and see how clean he kept it, and how proud his late wife would be.
"Daddy was crazy about his family," Jimmy said. "He loved his children and his grandchildren equally. He was my friend, and he always told me to keep the family together.
"Daddy dearly loved my mother. She was not only his wife but was his secretary for many years. They were married for about 53 years, and she was his rock."
Jim Tom had two children, Carola Norman Jeter and Jimmy Norman, plus an adopted son, Mervin S. Norman. He has five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and one sister.
Jim Tom’s care and concern for people stretched outside his family. He loved talking to people and always went out of his way to help the people he could.
"If Daddy had a dollar and somebody needed 50 cents, they would probably get 75 cents, Jimmy said. "That’s just the way he was."
Jim Tom was a rock in the Goshen community. His home and business were located in Goshen and he wanted the community and the schools to be the best they could be. Many times he generously donated his own money to help the Goshen schools when it was in need.
"He personally bought Army surplus lights for the Goshen football field and helped supply band uniforms for the band and other things that the schools needed," Jimmy said. "He wanted the Goshen schools to be as good as any. He was one of the founders of the Goshen Quarterback Club. The quarterback club is still an outstanding organization because of what Daddy started."
Jim Tom was also active in politics. He was one of the founders of the Pike County Republican Party along with Rudolph Shelly and Sam Huff.
"When it started the Pike County Republican Party was so small, they used to kid about holding their meetings in a phone booth," Jimmy said.
Jim Tom wasn’t only active with the Republican Party at home. He also got involved with politics on a state and national level, and befriended congressmen who were able to help Jim Tom’s friends and neighbors in Pike County.
"Daddy was friends with Congressman Bill Dickinson, who was the chairman of the Armed Service Commission," Jimmy said. "When people in Goshen has a crisis at home or their family was in trouble, they would call Daddy and he would go to bat for them. With the help of Congressman Dickinson sons would get stationed closer to home to help out with their families.
Jimmy said his father was serious about the Republican Party, but he had a few friends on the other side. James E. "Dog" Brantley was one of them. Although Jim Tom and Brantley were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, they were still friends. And Jim Tom was partly responsible for the Brantley’s nickname.
Jimmy said he remembered the stories of how Brantley got his name.
"One day Daddy and Mr. Brantley were ribbing each other about the Democrats and Republicans," Jimmy said. "And Daddy told Mr. Brantley he would vote for a yellow dog before he voted for a Democrat. Although they were just giving each other a hard time, the name stuck. There was a lot of respect between Daddy and Mr. Brantley, and there was never any animosity. That’s the way it should be.
"Daddy still tried to get the last word in on the Democrats. Every time something wasn’t good, he’s say, ‘The Democrats are at it again.’ He always wanted one last shot at the Democrats and wanted everyone to know he was a Republican."
But Jim Tom the community-oriented man, businessman and politician also had a mischievous streak, and loved playing practical jokes on people.
"He loved fireworks," Jimmy said. "Back in the days of outdoor toilets he would catch someone in the outhouse and wire the door shut and toss in a pack of fireworks. He has been known to shoot Roman candles in the house and burn up a lot of ladies hairdos. One of his favorite tricks was taking an old stove pipe and wrapping it up in Christmas paper. He would take a rope, soak it in diesel fuel, attach it to the stove pipe, light the end and throw it at people’s feet."
Although no one ever got hurt, they never stayed around to see what was going to happen.
Jim Tom Norman will always be remembered in Goshen. People will tell stories about the man, who his son considers the "Rock of Goshen,"
the lives he affected and practical jokes he pulled for a long time.
Services for Jim Tom Norman will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, 2000 at Dillard Funeral Home Chapel in Troy.