James Royal Dillon Jr
August 17, 1939 ~ February 23, 2022
Resided in: Atlanta, GA
James Royal Dillon, Jr., died on Feb. 23, 2022, surrounded by his family. He was 82. Jim, or “Jimmy” as he was known into early adulthood, was born August 17, 1939, in Lynchburg, Va., the oldest of five children. At an early age, he moved with his family to Columbus, Ga., where he grew up precocious, independent, and a mentor for his siblings.
He had attended Columbus High School for two years when a benefactor aunt offered an opportunity for Jim to attend Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg. His first foray outside of Columbus, he thrived at VES, often saying it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He played on the baseball and basketball teams, graduating in 1957.
After high school, Jim attended Georgia Tech where he majored in math and pledged the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, a group of friends he dearly loved. He enjoyed college immensely, and it is alleged that while highly skilled at math, his proficiency at poker and pool was truly exceptional.
In 1962, he married Ruth Anderson of Columbus, Ga. They began a life that brought decades of love and joy, a family of three children, extensive travels, and numerous family friendships. Before he would start on that journey, Jim began a two-year Army stint stationed in Texas and South Carolina.
After his Army service, not long after getting married and becoming a father, Jim joined Trust Company of Georgia in 1965, and began a 39-year career as a vice president and portfolio manager for the Atlanta-based bank. He attained Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) status in 1971 and continued his role managing both pension and major trust accounts after the securities side of Trust Company was spun off into Trusco Capital Management. He loved his work, just as he loved joining colleagues at the Pewter Mug at day’s end.
Jim and Ruth were close friends with a tight group of couples who often dined together, rotated houses for New Year’s revelry, and vacationed together with family and friends in what became one of their favorite places on earth: Pawleys Island, S.C. When Jim turned 60, his family surprised him with a reunion gathering at Pawleys Island and started another annual tradition that lasted 22 years, enjoying the beach with family and friends.
He and Ruth also loved the mountains, and in 1993 they purchased a home in Highlands, N.C., where they could entertain friends and enjoy the cool mountain air. He lost his beloved wife Ruth in 1996 after more than 33 years of marriage.
Jim was known for his sharp mind. He was a raconteur who loved to tell great stories and jokes, with a mischievous sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. He was a rabid consumer of books, especially pulp fiction, and he was an avid gamesman. He loved all forms of gaming competition, but especially backgammon and duplicate bridge. He and his long-time bridge partner, Terry Mangold, were very competitive at bridge tournaments throughout the Southeast, and both earned enough master points through competition to achieve Life Master status. He was also an avid tennis player. For years, he and his crew of tennis buddies had highly competitive matches at their annual getaways in the mountains of North Carolina, or with his friend Bruce Jones on the tennis court in his own backyard.
In truth, he loved all sports (and box scores). Jim and Ruth took up running in their early 30s and earned more than a dozen Peachtree Road Race t-shirts together. He and Bruce Jones took the boys on many camping trips to the Cohutta Wilderness in north Georgia. He was a huge fan of Georgia Tech football and basketball, coached Little League baseball, and loved nothing more than taking on his sons and their friends in an intense game of driveway basketball where he could showcase his “magic jumper”.
Jim carried a great love of music his entire life and loved to ham it up on the family room floor, showing off the moves he had honed on the dance floors in Columbus. He would sit in his car in the garage with the music up loud until a particular classic rock song he loved was over and then enter the house excitedly to tell the family that this band (or another band the next time) was the best. In later years, he asked his family to send him their respective lists of the 10 Best Songs of All Time which prompted a music sharing thread that extended into thousands of emails. Into his 70s he could be found attending rock and roll shows both large and obscure with his son Jay and stepson Brian. He was still “cutting a rug” as he would say on his final trip to Pawleys as the tunes were spun.
He was a loving and proud father who set high expectations, and one of those expectations was that the family attend services every Sunday at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. The church was an important part of his life, and after Ruth’s death from cancer in 1996, he dedicated countless hours clearing trees, pulling weeds, building paths, and planting shrubs to help establish and maintain the memorial garden at St. Anne’s, a holy place, where Ruth is interred and which also will be Jim’s final resting place. Jim helped to establish and manage the Endowment Fund for Saint Anne’s. He was on the Board of Trustees for Saint Anne’s Terrace, a retirement facility on Saint Anne’s campus, and in his spare time also worked and maintained the beautiful gardens there. He volunteered as a tutor and mentor at Agape, a program for young, underserved children, a program that was partly sponsored by Saint Anne’s. He had a profound and positive effect on many children through this program.
Nothing was more important to Jim than family. He was extremely proud of the Dillon family’s Virginia history at Indian Rock and Lexington, and he collected boxes of photographs, letters, recordings, literature, and other family lore that he used to teach his own children about the generations that preceded them. For decades he served on the board of directors of E. Dillon & Co., the Virginia limestone company founded by his great grandfather. His financial expertise was a valuable contribution to the company through both challenging and profitable times. He loved nothing more than taking his family to the annual meetings and touring the sites that defined Dillon history.
Ruth’s untimely death was a darkness in his life, but a new light arrived when he met Edith Woodling. They married in 2001 and, quickly, his vibrance and energy returned. Together, Jim and Edith merged two families and opened a new chapter in both of their lives. Jim and Edith enjoyed over 20 years of marriage, welcoming their greatly enlarged family to many festive occasions in their home and many trips to the beach. They, too, enjoyed “cutting the rug” together at many family weddings and other happy events. Jim was the ultimate host, welcoming friends and family alike, always ready to share a new wine or the newest craft beer he had discovered. Jim and Edith welcomed his seven grandchildren over their years together, and he was extremely proud of them all and loved each child devotedly. Jim and Edith enjoyed traveling to distances far and wide, with their last trip together being to Islamorada, Fla., to visit and to fish with their beloved fishing captain, nephew Drew.
The family is deeply grateful for all his caregivers at Legacy Ridge of Buckhead and for those at Agape Hospice. Charitable donations in memory of Jim can be made to Saint Anne’s Memorial Fund or to the Agape Tutoring Program.
Jim is survived by his wife Edith Woodling, his three children and spouses, Laura and Carl Schmidt of Seattle, Jay and Katie Dillon of Atlanta, and Chan and Kelly Dillon of Nashville, his seven grandchildren, Charlie and Pearce Dillon, Ruth and Claire Schmidt, Max, Mary and Anders Dillon, by his brother Bill Dillon and his wife, Penny, and many beloved nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his sisters Laura Noel, Mary Morton Dillon and Susan Giles Dillon. He was also deeply loved by Edith’s children, Brian and Michael Albanese, Frank and Catherine Woodling.
Jim’s service of Burial and Holy Eucharist will be held at Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church, 3098 St. Anne’s Lane, Atlanta, Georgia, 30327 on Friday, March 4th at 2:00 p.m.