Landscapes 14

Dr. James Dale Ashmore

May 14, 1935 ~ December 15, 2023 (age 88) 88 Years Old
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Dr. James Ashmore Obituary

Dr. James Dale Ashmore

It is with great sadness and much love that the family of Dr. James Dale Ashmore announce his death on Friday, December 15, 2023.  He passed away peacefully at his home with his three daughters by his side, at the age of 88.  He was a respected family doctor and a much-loved husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend. He touched the lives of all who knew him and left an indelible mark on all those close to him.

He is survived by his three daughters, three sons-in-law, nine grandchildren, the spouses of seven grandchildren, three great grandchildren, with two great grandchildren expected in 2024, one sister, two nieces, and five nephews.  They are Angela Ashmore Nall and her husband, Merrill Nall, of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Allyson Ashmore Jones and her husband, G. Scott Jones, M.D., of Columbus, Mississippi, and Stephanie Ashmore Pitts and her husband, Mike Pitts D.P.T. of Fairhope, Alabama.  His grandchildren are Joshua Ashmore McClanahan, D.M.D., and his wife, Victoria Vining McClanahan, D.M.D., of Helena, Alabama, S. Taylor McClanahan, M.D., and his wife, Lesley Blanton McClanahan, great grandson, James Issac McClanahan, and great granddaughter, Ruth Olivia McClanahan, of Hoover, Alabama, Michael Garrett Pitts, D.P.T., and his wife, Geena Millitello Pitts, of Fairhope, Alabama, McKenzie Jones Gillespie and her husband, Gil S. Gillespie, of Smyrna, Georgia, Mallory Pitts Rose, D.P.T., and her husband, Andrew Rose, D.P.T., and great grandson, Davey Cooper Rose, of  Daphne, Alabama, Chandler Jones Marchak and her husband, Tyler Marchak, of Fort Worth, Texas, Meredith Pitts Watson, O.T.D., and her husband, Rushing Watson, and great granddaughter, Drue Hayden Watson, of Fairhope, Alabama, Grayson Ashmore Jones of Columbus, Mississippi, and Gatlin Matthew Pitts of Fairhope, Alabama. His sister is Nancy Johnson Ashmore, of Huntsville, Alabama.  His nieces and nephews are Kim Red Fowler, and her husband, Wade Fowler, of Ridgeland, Mississippi, Lori Red Miller, and her husband, Todd Miller, of Kingwood, Texas, Kevin Lamar McKenzie, of Madison, Mississippi, Michael Dana Johnson, of Huntsville, Alabama, Nichols Brad Johnson, of Huntsville, Alabama, Arthur Dale Johnson, of Florence, Alabama, and Richard Kirk Johnson, of Huntsville, Alabama.

James is preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Beverly McKenzie Ashmore, and his parents.  He was born in New Market, Missouri, on May 14, 1935, to his late mother, Ruth Addline Brown, and his late father, Kenneth Dale Ashmore.  He spent his childhood in Winfield, Iowa, where as a basketball player, he was on the All-County, All Southeastern Iowa, All-Sectional Tournament, and All-District Tournament Teams, and was Honorable Mention on the All-State Team. He moved to Forest, Mississippi his senior year of high school and graduated from Forest High School as a straight A student, was selected Mr. Forest High School, was named Most Intelligent, Most Athletic, Most Versatile, lettering in basketball, baseball, and football, excelling in basketball at the point guard position.  He received the Babe Ruth Sportsman Award, was chosen for the Scott County, Mississippi, All-Star Basketball Team, represented Mississippi in the North-South High School All-Star Game and his thirty-five point per game scoring average was the highest in the nation.

He then attended Mississippi State University from 1953 until 1957 on a basketball scholarship, graduating summa cum laude with a Pre-Medicine degree.  At Mississippi State, he made school history playing basketball for the Bulldogs at the point guard position, broke eleven State basketball records and three SEC records. He was known for his jump shot and was one of the first jump shooters in the country.  He was a three-time All SEC Team selection and, as a senior, was named Associated Press All-American and a Converse and Helms Foundation All-American, and played in the East-West Games.  He was Mississippi State’s first All-American player, was named SEC Most Valuable Player in a player’s poll, and was the SEC Player of the year his senior year.  Finishing his senior year in the NCAA Top Ten in scoring, he was drafted in the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics.  During the Celtics tryouts, he was selected second string point guard to Bob Cousy, however, he decided to play in the AAU Basketball League so he could attend medical school half of the year.

Before beginning his professional basketball career, he married his high school sweetheart in New York City on the nationally televised “Bride and Groom” Television Show, on August 20, 1957.   For the next six years, the young couple alternated living in Memphis, Tennessee, while he attended the University of Tennessee Medical School, Memphis, Tennessee, and Denver, Colorado, where he played basketball for the Denver Truckers and was named an AAU All-American player.  In 1963, he graduated from medical school with straight A’s, and decided to pursue a career in General Practice/Family Medicine, a profession where he could help and serve the underserved.

After graduation, James moved, with his wife and the first of his three daughters, to Leighton, Alabama, a town that needed a doctor, where he worked six days a week, delivered babies in his office, was affiliated with two hospitals, three nursing homes, and made house calls, after hours, to his patients anytime he was needed.  It was in Leighton that he became known simply as “Doc.”  In 1974, he established Avalon Medical Center in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and moved his office there.  He served as Shoals Hospital Chief of Staff and as Medical Director of Muscle Shoals Nursing Home, Shoals Nursing Home, and Oak Crest Nursing Home.  He retired in 2015, after fifty-two years of practice, at the age of 80. He loved his patients and always put them and their needs first.  His bedside manner was gentle, caring, often praying with patients. During those years of practice, he established a reputation of caring and compassion that has endeared him to his thousands of patients, and, in the community, a reputation of the highest standard of integrity, medical care, and professional ethics.  As a doctor, he will be known for his kindness toward others, and remembered for the lives he helped or saved.

Along with practicing medicine, he enjoyed quite a variety of hobbies. He continued playing and coaching basketball for the First United Methodist Church, Leighton, Alabama, and helped coach the Colbert County High School basketball team to a state championship.  He also served as team doctor for both Colbert County High School, Leighton, Alabama, and Muscle Shoals High School, Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  He spent many hours teaching and playing basketball with his grandsons.  He was a man of many interests and very talented.  In his leisure time, he played tennis quite competitively, loved landscaping and yardwork, woodworking, and designed/built, at his home, a tennis court, a swimming pool, an in-ground trampoline, a gazebo, fountain, barn, workshop, shed, and children’s playground.

In 1974, James was inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame, into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, the SEC Sports Hall of Fame, the NCAA Sports Hall of Fame, in 1983 was named to the NCAA Basketball Coaches’ 25th Anniversary Team, and was named a SEC Legend at the SEC Basketball Championship Tournament in 2000.  And, only recently, received notice that Scott County, Mississippi, was establishing a Scott County Sports Hall of Fame and that he would be inducted this coming April, 2024. Despite his achievements as a basketball player, he never sought the limelight and never wanted to hear of his achievements, accolades, or honors, and was even quite embarrassed by them. He was the most humble, selfless person.  His life was a purpose-driven one.  His purpose was to be a doctor.  Basketball began as a way to achieve that purpose, to fund medical school.  The achievements and honors were simply a result of his hard work, practice, dedication and determination. 

James loved sports, of all kinds, and would watch endless games on television.  However, he loved Mississippi State University Bulldogs passionately and never missed a game. He was a fierce competitor whose competitiveness and drive were his trademark. As a basketball player, these qualities were well known.

His competitiveness and drive, as a person, were demonstrated in his remarkable work ethic. He was devoted and dedicated to his work. He had his first jobs at five years of age, delivering newspapers, doing errands and yardwork for others, in order to buy his clothes and shoes.  He never slowed, never missed a day of work, even when sick, unless it was to travel with his family.  He instilled his belief in hard work, determination, and high achievement with his children and grandchildren.  However, on a personal level, he was a quiet man.  A man of few words.  When he spoke, you listened.  He spoke most profoundly through his example.   He was always positive, never negative, never criticizing, never complaining. He spoke through the way he lived his life and how he treated others, always with kindness, love, and generosity. 

His generosity and benevolent, charitable spirit will always be remembered.  He gave so selfishly and lovingly of himself, his talents, his skills.  He would do anything for anybody and give anything to anybody.  His most remarkable quality was his humbleness. He was completely selfless. 

He made a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals and patients.  He was a role model for others, a mentor for many, and a close, loyal friend to some.  After moving to Leighton, Alabama, he was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Leighton, where he was on the Administrative Committee, the Finance Committee, the Discipleship Committee, the Lay Leadership Committee, others, and taught Adult Sunday School classes for many years. In 2000, he began attending Highland Park Baptist Church, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and, later, attended Launch Point Church, Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Saved as a young adult, he was a man of deep faith, who loved the Lord fiercely.  He read and studied his Bible every day, early in the mornings.  After a near fatal car accident, that faith strengthened.  He was changed by the miracle of his survival and remarkable recovery and, afterwards, gave his testimony and spoke to many area churches. His life is a testament to his unwavering faith in God and his belief in living a life of servitude and discipline.  He lived the model Christ gave us and had a true servant’s heart. He was a man whose love for the Lord was shown through his loving imitation of Him, by giving, by loving, by caring, by kindness. He lived, in a remarkable way, the virtues of humility, gentleness, fatherly love, and goodness.  He taught to never underestimate the strength found in gentleness and kindness, in a quiet strength.  He exemplified what it means to be a gentleman, and a gentle man.

He was extremely wise, highly intelligent, quite brilliant, a deep thinker.  He loved to read, anything and everything.  He was known for his thoughtful and great advice.  When asked for advice, suggestions, it might be received immediately or days later.  His advice was measured and had to be considered thoroughly before given.  He valued common sense and had the best sense of humor, a dry, quick wit.  His one-line comments were classic and are repeated often. 

His later years were spent traveling with his wife and friends around the country, and more importantly to him, traveling to all of his nine grandchildren’s every activity and event. Since his retirement, nothing was more important to him than spending time with his daughters and his nine grandchildren, and simply being at home with his wife.  He was a devoted family man and a loving father, a “Daddy,” that was always present, available.  He doted on his grandchildren and the birth of four great grandchildren meant everything to him during the last two years of his life. Before his death, he received the news that two more great grandchildren were expected in 2024.

In II Timothy 4:7, the Bible says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”   James has fought the good fight, ran the race, to the end, and is now with our Lord and Savior, and has finally been reunited with his “Bev.”

The word used most within his family the last week of his life was legacy, of the legacy he was leaving for his children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren, and for anyone who knew him. He and his wife leave behind a legacy of commitment and unconditional love, an enduring love story of sixty-four years.  James was the foundation of his family.  He was a pillar of strength, courage, and a source of wisdom.  He lived a life of deep abiding faith in God, of integrity, kindness toward others, and generosity. He believed in hard work, determination, achievement, done with a humble spirit. These are traits that will be passed down throughout his growing family, through the generations. This will be his legacy.

The family would like to extend a special thank you to his doctors and nurse, Dr. Don E. Heinkel,  Avalon Medical Group, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Jackie Handley, LPN, Avalon Medical Group, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Dr. Jerry B. Williams, Cardiologist, The Heart Center, Sheffield, Alabama,  Dr. Adam D. Isbell, Avalon Medical Group, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Dr. Eric J. Jenkie, 1Life Neurology Center, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Dr. David T. Cozart, General Surgeon, Sheffield, Alabama, Dr. Allen F. Long, ENT, Sheffield, Alabama, Dr. John Young, Bone & Joint Clinic, Florence, Alabama, Dr. J. Patrick Daugherty, Hematologist, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Dr. Joseph Hanson, Tennessee River Dermatology, Florence, Alabama.   

Words cannot express how much his caregiver, Gail Keener, of Tuscumbia, Alabama, meant to him and his family.  Her unwavering dedication, exemplary care, love, kindness and support made such a profound difference in his life, and the family will forever be grateful that she was there when they needed her the most, and for her guidance and friendship.  There whenever needed for care and support were caregivers Wanda Willard, of Sheffield, Alabama, Lindsey Mance, of Sheffield, Alabama, and Adrianna “Hootie” Nichols, of Tuscumbia, Alabama. 

There will be a public visitation with the family at Colbert Memorial Funeral Home, Tuscumbia, Alabama, on Friday, January 5, 2024, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.  A private family graveside service at Colbert Memorial Gardens, Tuscumbia, will be held at another time.  The ceremony will be conducted by his granddaughter’s husband, Rushing O. Watson, Youth Pastor of People of Mars Hill Church, Fairhope, Alabama. Three of his grandsons, Joshua Ashmore McClanahan, S. Taylor McClanahan, and Garrett M. Pitts will speak.  Special vocal music will be performed by family friend, Mary Riley Fowler of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Pallbearers will be his four grandsons and his granddaughter’s husband’s, Joshua Ashmore McClanahan, S. Taylor McClanahan, Garrett M. Pitts, Gatlin M. Pitts, Gil S. Gillespie, Andrew Rose, Tyler Marchak, and Rushing Watson.  Honorary pallbearers will be Kevin Lamar McKenzie, Wade Fowler, Todd Miller, Brad Bradford, Bob Bradford, Wayne Evans, and C.L. Hubbard.

As we say goodbye, we celebrate a life well-lived.  His memory will forever be a blessing and a source of strength and inspiration to his family. 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Children’s Hospital of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama.

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January 5, 2024

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Colbert Memorial Chapel
700 Hwy 43 South
Tuscumbia, AL 35674


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