Pioneer, leader remembered

Dr. James “Jim” Clark Terrell Jr., M.D


STEPHENVILLE (August 31, 2016) – Dr. James “Jim” Clark Terrell died Monday.  But his legacy – what he would consider contributions to a greater whole – have left an everlasting mark on Stephenville.

Making his mark on medicine

Jim Terrell was a doctor and surgeon who followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle.

The Terrell family’s contributions to the city date back about 90 years, to Jim’s parents, Dr. James Clark “J.C.” Terrell and Ellen, a registered nurse.

“Grandad (J.C.) was born and raised in Iredell,” Randall Terrell, one of Jim and Barbara Terrell’s four children, said. “He went to medical school and started looking for a small town to start at medical practice.”

J.C. and Ellen ultimately chose the local area over Brownwood. They came to Stephenville in 1926, opening a medical and surgical practice. The couple opened the first wing of a hospital and clinic about three years later at the corner of Belknap and Tarleton Streets, which laid the foundation for Stephenville’s current hospital.

“Grandad built the hospital because the community needed it,” Randall said.

J.C. was the first of four Doctors Terrell who would practice in Stephenville. He was later joined by his younger brother, Vance, and his wife, Violet. And Jim would soon follow.

Jim completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was standout student, in just three years. He led student organizations, was inducted into the Friar Society where he met his soon-to-be wife, Barbara Davis.

Following graduation, he immediately started medical school. Then came an internship in Colorado and residency at Parkland Hospital. His future was bright and his options limitless.

“He passed up opportunities in big cities to come back to Stephenville,” Randall said. “This is where he wanted to be.”

In 1965, Jim and Barbara moved to Stephenville to join the Terrell family’s thriving medical practice. They were followed by Frank, Vance’s son, and his wife, Kathy, in 1979.

As the hospital and community continued to grow, the Terrell family eventually forged a partnership with what is now known as Texas Health Resources.

Meanwhile, the Terrell family and other local doctors founded Stephenville Medical & Surgical Clinic.   

The local hospital, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville, named its new state-of-the-art $14 million emergency center after the four doctors who brought healthcare to the community. The Terrell Emergency Center celebrated its opening at ribbon cutting ceremony in August 2015.

During his career, Jim performed many cancer surgeries, and Randall said his interest in treating and tracking the disease put him at the forefront of the Texas Chapter of the American Cancer Society and the establishment of a registry for tracking patients and occurrences.

Dr. Jim retired from working at the clinic at the age of 65, but his service wasn’t over. He practiced medicine for five more years, supporting the efforts of Dr. Nathan Cedars, founder and director of H.O.P.E. The nonprofit organization provides indigent healthcare to community members in need. 

“He believed in and supported what Dr. Cedars was doing and understood it was something community needed,” Russell said.

Community servant

Jim also served the community on the Stephenville Independent School District board of trustees, and as a director over scouting organizations, hospitals, clinics, banks and community service organizations.   

During his time on the school board, Jim would be a part of a unified effort to construct a new high school campus.

“Everything the he did, Dad did it all with other people,” Randall said. “He was a frequent chairman, president and founder. He did everything he did because it was important and good for the community. Everything he did, he always said he couldn’t have done any of it alone. He was always a part of a larger group.”

A loving family man, mentor

Jim and Barbara were married on August 3, 1957. He died one year before their 60th wedding anniversary. Their union welcomed four children, Alissa Terrell Starbird, James Clark Terrell III, Randall Terrell and Julie Terrell Hinds, seven grandsons and a great-grandson.

“He was a really strong influence in his grandsons’ lives,” Randall said. “They’ve learned to model some of his behaviors. They’re all really decent kids, working to do the right thing in the world. They looked up to him as a model, something to emulate. They’re strong, kind and compassionate.”

Randall said his father’s character was built on a world of experiences, many he share with his father before passing them onto his children and grandchildren.

Boys Scouts was an important part of his Jim’s life. He served as council president.

But first, he was a scout himself. Jim went to Philmont Scout Ranch, a national Boy Scout Camp in Cimarron, New Mexico. Years later, he took his sons’ Explorer Post to the camp. He had love for Camp Billy Gibbons, where he represented the Texas Trails Council as a camper, counselor, doctor and even visited as a health inspector for the council.

Like his father, Jim was a recipient of the Boy Scouts Silver Beaver Award, which is presented to registered Scouters of exceptional character who have made an impact of the lives of youth through council service.

“He was really proud of that,” Randall said.    

An explorer

“He was quite the renaissance man,” Randall said of his father. “He wasn’t an expert in everything, but he loved history. He disliked politics but had strong political views. And he loved to travel.”

Jim visited Europe twice in the 1950s, one time with a few friends from Stephenville. They bought a car in Paris, slept on beaches and in barns and made friends with residents there.

During his lifetime, Jim explored places like the Strait of Magellan in Chile and Angel Falls, in Venezuela, by dugout canoe. He toured Morocco, Italy, South Africa, Tukey… He fulfilled a life-long dream at the age of 75, celebrating his birthday at Machu Picchu, Peru, a citadel located high in the Andes Mountains.

“My dad always said if he had been born in a different age, he would have been an explorer,” Randall said. “He loved stories of Cabeza de Vaca.”

He believed travel important. In fact, Jim tried to pass a measure while serving on school board that would excuse absences students accrued while traveling out of state.

“He loved South America especially,” Randall said. “When they tore down the old high school, they found a report he had written on South America when he was in school.”

His traveled by land, by sea, by air… Jim was even known to hitchhike while in Europe.

Obtaining his pilot’s license in the 1960s, Jim said he found freedom in the open sky.

“He flew all over the place, even drivable distances,” Randall said. “He would fly to De Leon and Dublin, just to have the opportunity to fly, because it really is beautiful up there. It’s great to see the clouds when you’re up amongst them.”   

Jim also enjoyed the beauty of open water and sailing. He and Barbara sailed the Mediterranean. He cut across the Pacific Ocean and sailed local waters.

“He thought that was a peaceful way to see the world,” Randall said. 

Jim so loved the idea of a world without boundaries that his first career choice may have been that astronaut. While he ultimately chose medicine, he shared his wanderlust with his family.

“I am following space stuff these days,” Randall said. “And my sons may have to the opportunity to see space on a commercial flight. One of my nephews has seen the world, six continents at 25.”

Whether he was close to home or halfway around the world, Dr. Jim believed in his fellow man.

“My dad had an overwhelming belief in the basic decency of humans,” Randall said. “He may have criticized, disagreed or even argued with them at times, but it never got personal. People could strongly hold to their beliefs and he might disagree, but at the end of the day, he always knew they were also doing what they believed was right.”

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