James Euel Tolbert

James (Jim) Euel Tolbert was born on his motherís birthday in April 1933, in Mount Airy, North Carolina. The youngest of four sons, and one of six children, born to Ila Lee (Bertha) Bowman and Euel Oscar Tolbert, he grew to the age of nine in Mt Airy, as the country came out of the great depression. He completed the first three years of public education at North Main Street School, just three blocks from where he was born. Mrs. Minick, his third grade teacher remembered a below average student who liked to day dream a lot. By the time Jim was twelve years old, he had attended five different primary schools in three different towns, and in 1946, at age 13, quit school for a job with Marita Bakery in Raleigh, NC. Later, he followed his family back to Mt Airy, found employment with the Mt Airy Furniture Factory, and in 1948, at age 15, joined the US Army.

After basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Jim was assigned to the US Constabulary in Europe; Underwent communications training as an intermediate speed radio operator; And spent the next 40 months patrolling the East/West German border. Growing up in the Army on this first enlistment was difficult for Jim, he was subjected to a Special Courts Martial in 1949 and another in 1951, spent 30 days in the Frankfurt stockade, and returned to the states as a private in 1952. Disillusioned with the military, he accepted a discharge at Fort Bragg, NC when his term of enlistment expired in May of that year.

For almost all of the 23 months that followed, between 1952 and 1954, Jim moved from one job to another, never staying in one place long enough to draw a full pay check, just long enough to buy more booze. Most of this time was spent living on the street, sleeping where ever he could find a dry corner. Two things happened during this period which turned Jim around, and changed his life for the better. He met WBBB Burlington's early morning country music DJ, Jim Hall, who convinced him to write country music; and Lillian Evelylina Strouth, who convinced him to marry her. Two decisions Jim says he never regretted. His first country song, "My Heart's Not The Guide", was performed on WSM's Grand Old Opra in 1953, and he married Evelyn in December of the same year.

Out of work in 1954, no marketable skills, a brand new wife, and two step children, Jim decided to re-enlist. Another decision he says he never regretted. In April he took the oath in Raleigh, and was assigned to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg. One of his first jobs there was as 1st LT Charlie Beckwith's communications chief. Jim went on to graduate the Southeastern Signal School and work as a Field Radio Repairman. In 1958, he transferred to the Southern European Task Force in Verona Italy, and it was there, his first daughter, Melody, was born. While in Italy he provided radio relay and carrier service for the Italian 1st Missile Command. In 1962, he returned to Fort Bragg and the 82d Airborne Division, moved into quarters on post, and in January of 1963, Evelyn gave birth to their second daughter, Deborah. After the Division's 1965 deployment to the Dominican Republic, Jim transferred to Special Forces. He completed all the Special Forces training, with the exception of the last two weeks, where he broke his back and both legs on a night parachute jump. In spite of this, he was allowed to graduate, and was assigned to the 6th SFG at Ft Bragg. In 1967, with a permanent profile, he deployed to Southeast Asia, where he served with Detachment B-52, and A-502 of the 5th SFG; and CCC, MACV SOG in Vietnam; and the 46th Company's support operation at NKP in Thailand. In 1971, he returned to Fort Bragg and served as an instructor with SF Schools until his retirement in 1973 as an E-7 with 24 years active service, and 30% disability. Jim became a master parachutist while on active duty with the 82d Airborne Division, earned his Combat Infantry Badge as an advisor to a CIDG Company in Vietnam, and holds the Bronze Star, Air Medal, and Army Commendation Medal for Valor.

In 1974, Jim accepted a position as a Small Arms Repairman with the Director of Industrial Operations (DIO), and later with the Materiel Maintenance Division (MMD) at Fort Bragg NC. In 1977, after graduating from Shaw University in Raleigh, NC with a Baccalaureate in Business Administration, he was promoted to Equipment Specialist Electronics and assigned to the Regional ROTC Maintenance Assistance and Instruction Team (MAIT). In 1980, he moved to Leesville, Louisiana and accepted a position as Equipment Specialist General at nearby Fort Polk. In 1984, he was promoted to Logistics Management Specialist GS 12, and assigned to the Army's Logistics Center at Fort Lee, Virginia. It was there at Ft Lee where Jim ended, not only his federal service, but also his marriage to Evelyn. His wife of 36 years suffered a fatal heart attack in 1989, and Jim retired from federal service in 1990 after 42 years.

After the death of his wife and his retirement, Jim moved back to North Carolina, bought a small farm in Harnett County, and began renovating an 1875 farm house. In 1990, he married his wife's younger sister, Peggy, and later that year, created Market House Music, a publishing company. He continues his association with Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) as a publisher/writer, and continues to write, produce, and publish country music on a limited scale.

 

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