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Norcross Remembers James Scarbrough

Longtime friends remember Scarbrough, who died in a Saturday wreck while on his scooter.

Everyone knew James Scarbrough as a knowledgeable man.

Since he was a retiree from the EPA, the air force and Gwinnett County Water Resources, he was considered an expert in environmental issues.

"Jim was our 'go-to guy,'" said Connie Weathers, a friend and neighbor who worked with him on many community projects. "His knowledge, training, experience and style of sharing made him a priceless resource in all matters of water, conservation, sustainability and getting things done through public-private collaboration."

Through his skillset, he not only succeeded with his jobs, but he also helped shape Norcross into what it is today. At the age of 72, he was still serving as a part-time consultant with the county water resources, but he also spent much time in the city's Tree Preservation Board, the Sustainable Norcross Commission, and the Parks and Green Space Commission.

That's why it shocked the Norcross community when it was discovered that Scarbrough had . While at the intersection of Beaver Ruin and Indian Trail, he was in his scooter making a left turn onto Beaver Ruin when a passenger vehicle ran a red light and hit him.

Norcross Police said he died on scene.

Scarbrough had lived in Norcross with his wife, Martha, for more than 45 years, where he also raised his three sons. The last forty years were spent living on Longview Drive, where he became friends with neighbors such as Weathers, Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson and Marilyn Meacham.

"There's not a more patriotic, honest person [than Jim]," said Meacham, who knew the Scarbroughs for 30 years and was real-estate partners with Martha until she retired. "He was a man of few words, but he when he spoke, you listened."

That was another aspect of Scarbrough that many are recalling. While he always attended city and countywide meetings for the environment and other issues, he stayed quiet. But when he did say something, he didn't waste his words.

The mayor remembered the wit Scarbrough brought whenever he would speak aloud at a meeting.

"He had a dry sense of humor, so he would throw that in to keep things light," said Johnson. He noted Scarbrough would always sit behind him on his left side at the policy work sessions, and joked at Monday policy work session that he "always watched my back."

Even though Scarbrough may not have been outspoken, Scarbrough had gone to enough public meetings for people to know who he was and what kind of knowledge he possessed.

"Rarely did I go to a gathering with professionals or volunteers in these topics that I did not meet someone who knew Jim and spoke highly of him," said Weathers.

One particular accomplishment Johnson recognized Scarbrough for was the fact that he was actively on the Sustainable Norcross Commission, which helped the city achieve the Gold and Silver level ceritifications as a Green Community by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

"Without that commission, we wouldn't have obtained those two designations," the mayor said.

Having a background in water and sewage, Scarbrough was also a great resource when the city did an assessment on the water-sewer system for the area, Johnson added.

Scarbrough also accomplished many things for Gwinnett and even the state of Georgia. He had been a consultant for Gwinnett and the state during the over the use of the Chattahoochee River water among Alabama, Georgia and Florida. He also recently spoke at a Sierra Club meeting and was well-known among Atlanta Regional Commission members.

Additionally, he served as Treasurer of the Upper Ocmulgee River Resource Conservation and Development Council for many years, where he participated in grants and helped with anything that had to do with water quality and environment, said the council's president, Ellis Lamme.

Having known each other for 15 years, he and Scarbrough also shared the fact that they were air force retirees but from different areas.

"He and I shared stories and tales, and broke bread once in a while," said Lamme. "He was just a real good fellow and a friend of mine, and I miss him very much."

Scarbrough had planned to run for an elected supervisor position with the RC&D, and he also was going to represent Sustainable Norcross in a panel at a statewide Sustainability meeting, said Weathers.

"He was always a pleasure to be around because he was such a kind and helpful person," said the mayor. "He will be sorely missed in the community, and sure left us way too soon."

Many who attended said the funeral home was packed, with the line of people flooding through the outside doors. The funeral will take place 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 19, at , located at 5051 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Peachtree Corners.

Lamme and the Upper Ocmulgee River Resource Conservation and Development Council are accepting donations to go toward a tree planting and a plaque in honor of Scarbrough to be placed in Norcross. Donations will be accepted through mail delivered to Upper Ocmulgee River RC&D, 750 S. Perry St. Suite 212, Lawrenceville, GA 30046. Checks should be made out to Upper Ocmulgee River RC&D. 

Judy Putnam (Editor) June 19, 2012 at 01:56 PM
What a touching piece on James Scarbrough. I was shocked to hear the news. I had met him on many occasion, he was witty and loved to tell jokes. He had so many friends, he will be greatly missed.

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