Lost is a man who helped his city, country

Published 10:46 am Sunday, March 11, 2012

Selma and Dallas County recently lost a man who dedicated his life to his family, his country and helping others.

James “Jimmy” Guthrie passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the age of 83.

Guthrie was born Nov. 1, 1928 in Anniston, before moving to Selma at the age of two.

Email newsletter signup

Guthrie joined the United States Army in 1951 and served until 1971 when he retired as Lt. Colonel and went on to serve as director of parks and recreation for the city of Selma for 20 years.

Wanda Guthrie, Jimmy’s wife since 1956, said one thing that stood out about her husband was his dedication to helping children be the best people they could be.

“What Jimmy wanted, he got for the kids, and that was his life other than the army life,” Wanda said. “It was doing everything in the world possible to get the kids off the street and trying to teach them the value of life and what it would mean to them in their later years, and to teach them discipline to make something out of themselves.”

Wanda said that dedication was something Jimmy carried over from his time in the military, and helped him build facilities and discipline for the area’s children.

“He built, while he was at the recreation department, he built swimming pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, ball fields,” Wanda said. “He was absolutely engrossed in making children into men and women. He taught the kids how to respect themselves because if you respect yourself you’re going to respect others.”

As Wanda flipped through a scrapbook overflowing with clippings detailing Jimmy’s exploits in the military and in his athletic career, she’d let out a smile and a laugh as she remembered her husband as a man dedicated to his family above all.

“I’ll remember him as a super, super man—a hero to me,” Wanda said. “He was the most wonderful husband and father. He loved our two sons and our three grandchildren. He devoted his life to us to make a better place for us.”

Elton Reece, director of the Selma Parks and Recreation Department and longtime friend of Jimmy who worked with him, said Jimmy exhibited the same kind of dedication working for the city as he did for his country.

“Mr. Guthrie was first class, well organized, and he was definitely in the people pleasing business. He retired out of a military world, which of course in the military you’re taught organization and discipline and doing things right the first time,” Reece said. “That’s his mode of his job—to do everything right, do it complete and do everything first class. That’s what he preached 24/7. He was a dear friend and a great boss and he will be missed by everybody that he ever touched.”

Jimmy is also survived by his two sons, James Kevin Guthrie and John Todd Guthrie, as well as his three grandchildren.