Thursday, November 25, 2010

Birmingham businessman, golfer Elbert S. Jemison Jr., remembered as 'great servant'

Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2010, 10:38 PM ??? Updated: Tuesday, November 23, 2010, 10:39 PM

Elbert S. Jemison Jr., a Birmingham businessman whose championship golfing earned him a place in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, died Monday at the age of 90.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Cathedral Church of the Advent. The family will receive friends at 10 a.m. at the church in Klingman Commons.

Jemison's life took him from the European Theatre in World War II to winning more than 50 tournaments to mingling with presidents.

"He was a great servant in many capacities," said Scott Myers, executive director of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. "Even in his retirement, he was always around, had great ideas, and was always thinking of new ways to get people involved."

Jemison was born into a family steeped in Birmingham lore. His grandfather Robert Jemison Sr. created Glen Iris Park. His uncle Robert Jr. developed Mountain Brook Estates in the 1920s, and later the town of Fairfield.

He learned the game of golf as a boy hitting hickory nuts with his grandfather's clubs, and later won junior tournaments while at Ramsay High School. With the outbreak of war, Jemison served as an aide to Gen. Edmund B. Sebree and met Gen. George S. Patton.

Jemison carried his 8-iron to war in his bedroll to work on his swing, prompting "Old Blood and Guts" to tell him, "By God, if you can kill Germans with it, use it!" As a result of his wartime service, Jemison was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and Bronze Star.

After finishing college and becoming an insurance salesman, he won back-to-back state amateur golf titles and served as president of the Southern Golf Association. In the 1970s, he served on the U.S. Golf Association's Executive Committee, and initiated the USGA membership program. This allowed the association to reach out to individual golfers playing on public courses.

He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and was a memorable presence there, said Reeves Sims, a volunteer at the hall.

"He was just a joy to talk to," Sims said. "He was always positive, always real upbeat, and he talked about anything. He just loved life and was a great guy. He was really humble, but he enjoyed being a part of this hall."

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