There is no other way to say it: Fountain City has a lost a treasure, and we here at Knox TN Today have lost a beloved and respected colleague and friend.
Dr. Jim Tumblin died Friday afternoon, June 3. I last corresponded with him via email exactly a month before his passing. I was helping him with a few details on a story that, unfortunately, did not make it to these pages.
A retired optometrist, Tumblin was our resident collector, historian and writer of all things Fountain City. Even at the age of 95, he still had the enthusiasm for jumping down a rabbit hole to tell a story. He often enlisted the services of the research librarians at the McClung Historical Collection to help him find the records he needed. He wasn’t one to let the navigation of modern technology throw hurdles in his way.
Tumblin graduated from Central High School in 1944. His passion for history was sparked in the American History classroom of Nannie Lee Hicks. He co-authored “Images of America: Fountain City” and is the author of “Fountain City: People Who Made a Difference.”
A long-time member of Fountain City Town Hall, in 2020 Tumblin was honored by the Knoxville History Project. His other honors include: Tennessee Optometrist of the Year (1975), Fountain City Man of the Year (1999), Claude C. Myers Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), Knox Heritage Media Award (2013), Fontinalis Award for Outstanding Contribution in Writing (2013) and the Knoxville Central High School Wall of Fame (2013).
Over recent months, Tumblin moved to the Park Place of Fountain City retirement community and was slowly but surely wrapping up his long residency on East Kesterwood Drive. Though he had certainly lived a long, productive and contributing life, we weren’t expecting to say goodbye just yet.
So long, Dr. Jim. Thank you for everything you did for this community. You will be sorely missed and forever appreciated. Our sincere condolences to all of his family and friends.