Dr. Vernon Carmichael James, 81, dies

Columbus, OH — Dr. Vernon Carmichael James, 81, a soul who experienced the breadth of many lives within a single lifespan, died at his residence in Campbell Hall, N.Y., on May 28, 2024.

His extraordinary journey, marked by boundless dedication and service, leaves an indelible mark on all who knew him.

Born on Oct. 21, 1942, to Atlanta educators John Henry James Jr. and Lucile Carmichael James (both deceased), Dr. James’ life was a testament to resilience, achievement, and unwavering commitment. From his early days as a scholarly athlete excelling in multiple sports — including swimming, tennis, and football (where he dominated in high school and college) — he emerged as a beacon of perseverance and excellence. He was not just an individual but a force who lived, embraced, and fulfilled countless roles.

Dr. James’ academic and professional pursuits were as diverse as they were impactful. He attended Morehouse at 15 years old (and pledged with the Omega Psi Phi fraternity) and earned multiple doctorates: a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Tuskegee University, a Doctorate in Pathology from Purdue University, and a Doctorate in Toxicology from Austin Peay State University. His passion for knowledge and discovery fueled a distinguished career as a research scientist and a respected professor at Lincoln University.

Yet, his contributions extended far beyond academia. Dr. James served his country with valor and distinction in the Vietnam War as a member of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. As a Green Beret in the 501st Recon, he was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his bravery. His service also took him to Africa and the Panama Canal Zone, where he was crippled, enduring the hardships of being tortured as a POW. His military service was a profound chapter in a life that was packed with many adventures all over the world.

After his POW nightmare, he learned to walk again and stepped into Lederle laboratories as a pathologist. He then became a department leader at Pfizer for many years (working on cures for Cancer) — stateside and in Paris (where his fluency in French helped a lot).

To give back, Dr. James spearheaded and taught the curriculum of Toxicology at Lincoln University (the first black University in America).

Dr. James’ multifaceted life also saw him as a politician, a veterinarian, horse trainer, and harness horse driver (at Monticello Raceway for over 30 years) — and above all, a cherished friend, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Dr. James was married to Dorothy James (deceased). He was the proud father of Kenneth, Vernon, Ivy, Sharon, and John Henry. He is survived by his sons, Kenneth Cason-James and John Henry James III; daughter, Ivy James; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Dr. James was also extremely blessed by having many loving people in his life — including close relatives Joseph James, Gwen, Mary Alice, Verna Elizabeth, Quentin (deceased), and Charles; caregiver Diane. And loved ones that he cared for dearly: Ruth, George, Jimmy, and too many others to mention. He loved you all so much.

A service to celebrate Dr. James’ remarkable life will be held in Atlanta, Ga., where family, friends, and colleagues will gather to honor a man who truly embodied the essence of a life well-lived.

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