Obituary of James Taft, Sr.
James “Snake” Carlisle Taft, Sr. passed away on May 28, 2018. He was born in Charlotte, NC on February 22, 1934 to the late Wellington Marsten Taft and Daisy Tillman Taft. James is survived by his wife, Joann Simril Taft; son, James Carlisle Taft, Jr. (Leslie) of Charlotte and daughter, Melanie Carol Lamb (Tim) of Charlotte; grandchildren, Matthew Lamb (Christian) and Katie Just (Matthew); great-grandchilden, Aliegha Lamb and Lucas Just; and many nieces and nephews. Snake dedicated his life to youth athletics and the betterment of youth in general. He loved entertaining friends and family with jokes and anecdotes his whole life. He never knew a stranger. Family will receive friends at Hankins and Whittington Funeral Service, 1111 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC on Saturday June 2, 2018 from 12:00 noon – 1:30 PM followed by graveside services at Sharon Memorial Park, 5400 Monroe Road, Charlotte, NC 28212 at 2:00 PM.
Jim was born in the midst of the depression. He lost his father at a very young age. With everyone during this period trying to make ends meet, he learned to fend for himself and others. When his time came, he joined the US Army, qualifying for the Rangers and serving during the Korean conflict.
After being honorably discharged, He met and married the love of his life, Joann Simril while both worked at Iveys department store in uptown Charlotte. He attended Belmont Abby College in Belmont, NC, working on a sociology degree. His senior exit project was to create an athletic program from scratch for the newly opened Charlotte Christian School. After retiring and returning to Charlotte years later , he enjoyed attending the school’s sporting events and the occasional opportunity to throw the opening day pitches to start the seasons.
After graduation, Jim worked for the Salvation Army Red Shield Boys Club in Charlotte. This in turn led to his work with underprivileged children in Charlotte and Belmont, NC. As executive director he enhanced the athletic programs to the point of creating a whole new ball field in the more impoverished part of town, but also taking the Boys Club’s Pony League baseball team to Shawnee Oklahoma and winning the World Series of the Colt division in 1963.
After seeing his value, Boys Club of America asked that he consider transferring to other clubs that were in need of his personality type to develop clubs in struggling neighborhoods. The first was Wallingford Connecticut. While the move was a tough one for the family, his innate drive to accept and overcome a challenge transcended to the rest of the family; a life lesson that still buoys the family at this time. Boys from that era who’ve grown to be men still recall fondly Jim’s positive effect on the working class neighborhoods he worked in. This same willingness to duty and service led him to the Cramer Hill Boys Club in Camden New Jersey.
It was during this period that Jim was nominated and honored as an Outstanding Young Men of America for the year 1967. This was in recognition of his deeds for the first 33 years of his life. Similar deeds were to follow for the next 50 years of his life. At his dedication ceremony he had the opportunity to be personally introduced to Senator Richard Nixon. A number of years later, while working for Pop Warner Football, Jim happened to meet then President Nixon at a sports banquet honoring national youth athletes and their mentors. To his surprise, the President remembered him, even calling him erroneously Mr. Tate! To Jim that wasn’t a problem, it was close enough!
In the early 1970’s Jim was recruited to become the National Field Director for Pop Warner Little Scholars Youth Football in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The largest youth football league at the time, it fit right in with Jim’s philosophy of education first, then athletics. In this capacity Jim had the opportunity to travel the country arbitrating rule disputes and being the official mouthpiece of the league. If there was a microphone on the field, Jim was behind it, exhorting all within earshot too be their best both on and off the field. During his Pop Warner years, the governor of Kentucky recognized Jim for his service within her state by making him an Honorary Kentucky Colonel.
Jim finally retired from working for a regular paycheck in the mid-1990’s, but this in no way slowed down his involvement in his community and other sports endeavors. While living in the small New Jersey community of Edgewater Park he found himself on numerous committees for the betterment of the town. Most important for him was the Department of Recreation. In this capacity he was able to still have a positive impact on activities for the betterment of its citizens. Chief amongst these was his personal (and physical) involvement with the creation of a jogging trail in a new underdeveloped park of the township. The trail proved to be the foundation for the further development of that park. To this day, the trail stills bears his name as a fitting tribute to someone who decided not to sleep off his retirement years.
Just when he began to relax a bit and enjoy his time off, friends and acquaintances from his past enlisted his help in the creation of a whole new youth football program called AYF, American Youth Football. In this capacity Jim set the guiding principles for the new organization. After he got the ball rolling, Jim retired again as President Emeritus, yet continued to give tacit advice when asked. The ultimate recognition of his work with youth athletics was his nomination and acceptance into the Youth Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio.
As his ability to easily travel declined, Jim devoted more time to his local churches. As an active member of both Mouzon Methodist and Matthews United Methodist Church he became member of the Stephen Ministry. In fact he went on to earn his theology degree through Liberty University. He loved teaching Sunday School, relating his life experiences to biblical teachings and how the consequences and rewards of life have similar outcomes.
When the time came for Snake to leave this world, his family was grateful that he had lived his life to the fullest. He was still able to drive his own car, workout in the local gym and enjoy the company of all whom he loved and loved him. Rarely bedridden for long, with humor and compassion he made the best of the time and place he dwelt in and made those who surrounded him better for the experience. His family is truly grateful for the love he gave and for the love that was given him.