Obituary of Ernest Edward James Jr.
Ernest "Skip" James was born on August 21, 1957, to Alice Marie Tyler-James and Ernest Edward James Sr in Williamsburg Virginia. Skip was the definition of 2nd Corinthians 5-7 as he walked by faith and not by sight daily.
Ernest accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at an early age. He was baptized and joined the Mt. Pilgrim Baptist church in Williamsburg. When he came to Virginia Union University, he began to attend Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond. He moved his membership to Fifth Street in the mid 1980's. He loved his church and brought his first home in the Highland Park community. In those decades, Ernest could be seen walking himself to 8:00am service Sunday mornings as his wife prepared the children for their drive to Powhatan for services at Mt. Zion. Ernest loved hymns, spirituals and talking about the goodness of The Lord upon his life.
Ernest was educated in York County public schools until he lost his sight. He then attended The Hampton School for The Blind until his senior year. Ernest's determination led him to self-advocate for inclusive education for himself long before it was considered the norm. In his junior year he made the decision that he would graduate from his local high school, Bruton High School in Williamsburg.
He attended Virginia Union University where he fell in love with everything its hallowed grounds and dear old walls represent. The fire lit by VUU burned bright until his dying day. On campus Skip was the life of the party and yet also very dedicated to his studies. He gained the nick name "Rick James" by his peers. While he pledged no fraternity, they all claimed him as their beloved VUU brother. He tried hard not to miss an event as an alumnus of his beloved HBCU.
He never stopped proving to the world that losing his sight was only a minor inconvenience for him. He never stopped learning. Ernest attended Virginia Union University and completed a bachelor's degree in Sociology.
After college, the working world was not ready to be inclusive of those with disabilities. Skip had a very difficult time finding a job, but he would not give up. He kept knocking on closed doors. He was not too humble to take a job most college graduates would think was beneath them. Skip had an excellent work ethic, and his first job was with Busch Gardens. He also worked for Williamsburg James City County Community Action agency Big Brother program. Within two years of working there he found a job working in Fort Eustis for EEO (Equal Employment Opportunities). From there he secured a job with the Federal government at the Richmond Office of The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). Skip worked for over 30 years as a Federal Investigator before he retired.
Ernest had the honor of serving on the Virginia Board for People with Developmental Disabilities first class of Partners in Policy making during the tenure of The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder as governor of The Commonwealth of Virginia. He installed a sense of duty and service in his children by living a life as an example before them. During the child rearing years, Skip and Cathy volunteered with Virginia Institute for Developmental Disabilities and Parent to Parent, coaching other parents of children with disabilities throughout Virginia. They were also very active in the Highland Park Southern Tip Neighborhood Association where they included opportunities for their children to serve the community. Proverbs 27:19 tell us, "As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart." Ernest James lived a life that inspired others to go beyond the ordinary to achieve the extraordinary.
After retirement, Skip spent his days being the life of the party. He traveled, liked to explore a different restaurant every week and he took on new adventures including the first time using a cane. After retiring he and his cane were unstoppable. Skip took classes via the Virginia Department of the Visually Impaired where he mastered cane management, kitchen safety, cooking, physical training, and use of software on technological devices and online applications. Skip was a social being by God's design. He loved engaging with his community far and near online, in person and on the phone. In fact, he dialed everyone he could think of between spending time with his family.
Skip loved sports with passion. All sports but the Dallas Cowboys were particularly near and dear to him. His team spirit shined bright at VUU's Homecomings, Gold Bowls, and games. If there was a preparty or afterparty, it was Skip's mission to be there.
His competitive nature made him love all sorts of games and he would order Braille versions of cards, Monopoly, connect four, Pokeno and others. If Skip dealt the cards, most were not aware that he would memorize the hands of the other players giving himself an advantage over his competition.
Skip found the love of his life in 1989, Cathy Whitlock James. They met at MCV as he was crossing the street headed back to the Federal Building on his lunch break in downtown Richmond, Virginia. They share three beautiful children together. As a grandparent, he was known as "Pops." Collectively, Skip and Cathy were known as Lolli & Pops because they were all day suckers for their one and only grandchild, Ernest IV. Ernest was the most amazing husband, father, and grandfather. He would do absolutely anything for his family. Skip was a determined man. Whatever it was he desired, he would not stop until he achieved it for himself and especially for his family. The family discount to his services was always a free sermon (or two, maybe three). He was full of wisdom and logic. God truly imparted him with the gift of communication that transcended generations. Friends of the children would often seek out advice from "Mr. Skip."
Ernest is survived by his devoted wife of 33 years, Cathy Whitlock-James. His children, Ernest James III, Erica and Catherine; a grandson, Ernest James IV "Ernie"; his loving sister, Brenda James Dixon (Richard); brother, Gilbert Tyler (Debbie); Godsister, Iris Stepney(William); Sister in "love," LaTarsha Whitlock-Waddy(James); His Aunts: Ethel Mae Melvin(Lutrell) Frances James, Hazel James, Joyce Whitlock Gentry(Raymond), Nancy Bell Hendricks, Valerie Bell Gamble, Leah Bell Kirkland(Glenn), Yvette Bell, and Karen Bell; Uncles: Lewis (Christine), Charles (Nancy), Sherman (Candise), John (Stacy), Roland Whitlock, Melwood Whitlock Sr(Jean), Clyde Whitlock Sr(Louise), Dallin Bell(Barbara), Roger Bell(Eva), Irvin Bell Jr, and Edward Bell Sr(Karen); A devoted Great-Aunt and neighbor, Mrs. Florine Bell; Ernest had a host of loving family including an abundance of cousins, nieces, nephews and other relatives.
You Were There
You were there when we took our first steps,
And went unsteadily across the floor.
You pushed and prodded: encouraged and guided.
Until our steps took us out the door.
You worry now "Are they ok?"
Is there more you could have done?
As we walk the paths of our unknown
You wonder "Where have my children gone?"
Where we are is where you have led us
With your special love you showed us a way.
To believe in ourselves and the decisions we make.
Taking on the challenge of life day-to-day.
And where we go you can be sure,
In spirit you shall never be alone.
For where you are is what matters most to us,
Because to us that will always be home.
Whether you kept us in your thoughts and prayers, sent a lovely arrangement, gave a memorial donation, or helped in any way, your love and kindness brought us great comfort and will always be remembered.
The Family of Ernest Edward "Skip" James Jr.
With Sincere Appreciation
Professional Services Provided by:
Marian Gray Thomas Funeral Home
64 Cartersville Rd Cumberland VA 23040
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Visitation at Funeral Home
Final Resting Place
In Loving Memory
Ernest James Jr.
1957 - 2023
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