James dies after battle with cancer

Published 9:18 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

Sherri Summers James, 50, died Saturday, January 24 in Jackson Hospital, Montgomery. Cause of death was the enemy she fought valiantly since her diagnosis with breast cancer in 1997. Through recurrence, chemotherapy and radiation she continued the battle for herself and other victims, encouraging them personally and through the yearly Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society and headed locally by “Johnnie’s Girls,” formed by James and her five sisters.

On learning of her death Selma Mayor George Evans said, “I applaud her for the leadership role she took in raising funds for the American Cancer Society and for the relentless battle she waged against cancer in spite of her own troubles with this deadly enemy.”

Cancer has run a wide course through her family. Her mother, Johnnie Mae Summers, was diagnosed in 1982 with breast cancer and responded favorably to radiation treatment. But in 1996 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died in 1997. Three of James’ five sisters have survived cancer: Nan Curtis Brown recovered successfully from colon cancer, diagnosed in 1998, and from surgical removal of a meningioma in 2004. Veronica Brown is a breast cancer survivor after diagnosis in 2004, subsequent chemotherapy and radiation. And Karol Summers Purdie is surviving breast cancer diagnosed in 2006 and treated successfully with surgery and chemotherapy.

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In 2005, American Cancer Society presented James with both the community and state awards given annually to an outstanding volunteer. In accepting the awards she said, “Humble is the way this honor makes me feel, making me want to work even harder to encourage those diagnosed with cancer to believe in faith and medicine. Both are necessary.”

In addition to her volunteer hours with the American Cancer Society, James’ professional career was with Selma city government, where she served as administrative assistant to former Mayor James Perkins and later as Chairman of Trust Build, the city’s Community Outreach program.

In 2008 she accepted an award from the State League of Municipalities, as well as the CH2MHill Silver Award from the National League of Cities for this innovative program.

“I knew her as a volunteer in the American Cancer Society and especially at the city employees’ cancer luncheons, which Ms. James initiated,” said Warren Hinson, director of the Selma Animal Shelter. “She was a warrior. I admired her determination, her concern for other cancer victims and the fact that as a cancer patient, she did not let that interrupt her work.”

James was a native of Mobile, earned her BS degree in business administration from Alabama A&M University and a master’s degree in elementary education from Alabama State University. She formerly taught at Craig’s CITY Program (Community Intensive Training for Youth), where she remained a board member.

She was a member of Greater Saint Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church, where she was a deaconess and president of the Matron’s Organization and served on the scholarship committee.

Sherri James was married to Ollie James in April 1998. Their daughter is Andria Irving of Mobile. Services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in Ebenezer Baptist Church. Miller Funeral Service will publish obituary details.