Jim Skillman (1946-2022)

November 19, 2022

James Douglas Skillman, beloved husband, father, grandfather, lifelong soldier in the fight for social justice, and longtime member of the ALBA board and honorary board, passed away October 20, 2022, at the age of 76.

Jim was born January 24, 1946, to Mary Noreen Skillman (nee Yeargin) in a Miami, Florida, Army hospital. After a short time in Montgomery, Alabama, Jim moved to Georgia and spent his youth in Marietta and Atlanta’s Cascade Heights neighborhood. From Bert Adams Scout Camp to watching the Allman Brothers at Piedmont Park, Jim was a product of an old Atlanta that is long gone. Jim loved reminiscing about the sights and sounds of the Royal Peacock, the soul music extravaganzas at Ponce de Leon Park, Lawson General Hospital, Alley Pat on the radio or the Frito Lay factory.

It was the old army induction center on Ponce de Leon Jim reported to, when, weeks after graduating high school in 1965, he was drafted into the Army. He was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma until he was deployed to Vietnam where he served in an artillery unit in the central highlands. His experiences overseas disillusioned him about the war in Vietnam, and on his return home he dedicated himself to anti-war causes including joining Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and Vets for Peace. As a student at Georgia State University, Jim co-founded the school’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and met his first wife Peggy.

Jim Skillman with a DSA group in a 2015 vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning remembering victims of School of the Americas/WHINSEC graduates, 2015.

Jim’s trade was printing and packaging. From his first Boy Scout’s badge for printing to running a press for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) offices on Auburn Avenue to running his own shop, City Printing, in Birmingham, Alabama, printer ink was in Jim’s blood.

While printing was Jim’s occupation for most of his life, political activism was his passion. He could always be counted on to man a picket line in support of workers’ rights, to pass out literature protesting the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, or to join a vigil for peace. He loved a good political debate which he entered into with zeal and a keen knowledge of current events as well as history. His political activism took him first to Chicago, then Birmingham where he lived with his second wife Jennie, until 1990. He returned to Atlanta in 1991, married Trisha Renaud and helped raise her two children.

Jim was a prodigious reader with a sharp mind, quick wit and warm heart. He was also known for his tasty Brunswick stew and fluffy waffles, and he relished the boisterous chaos of family gatherings at holidays.

Jim worked in the packaging/printing business until retiring in 2008. He never, however, retired from fighting for the causes he believed in. In Atlanta, he helped rejuvenate the local chapter of Jobs with Justice and was arrested in 2012 during a civil disobedience action to protect union jobs at AT&T. Until the end, the fire Jim had in him to fight for justice and equality burned bright. As his health faltered, he gave what time and energy he could to those efforts. He never wavered from his abiding sense of duty to forge a moral world.