Dr. James Talmage Dobbins, Jr.

Dr. James Talmage Dobbins, Jr., native of Chapel Hill and long-time resident of Winston-Salem, NC, died peacefully at Carolina Meadows in Chatham County surrounded by his family on September 19, 2018. He was 92 years old. 

Jim, as he was known to family and friends, is survived by his wife of 66 years, Jacqueleene B. Dobbins (Jackie); his two sons, James T. Dobbins III (wife, Cathy) of Durham, NC and Steven Earl Dobbins of Chapel Hill, NC; and grandson, Scott N. Dobbins (wife, Summer Xie) of New York City. 

Jim was born on June 13, 1926 and had an older sister, Christine Marie Dobbins Taylor. He was the son of James Talmage Dobbins, Sr, a well-loved chemistry professor at UNC-CH for many decades, and Lila Shore Dobbins. He grew up at 301 Cameron Avenue in Chapel Hill, a home place that was in the family for almost 80 years. There he enjoyed a very happy childhood on this large property where there were many things to engage a young child. Although it was within the city limits, the back yard included a large garden and a number of farm animals and a pet goose that would follow him around. He attended Chapel Hill High School and was a lead performer in the production of H. M. S. Pinafore in 1943. He went on to attend the University of North Carolina where he majored in chemistry and ultimately obtained a PhD specializing in analytical chemistry, the same field as his father. 

While in graduate school at UNC, Jim met a new graduate student, Jacqueleene Bowen, whom he went on to marry. Together, they enjoyed a wonderful married life for over six decades. Shortly before completing his PhD, he was scheduled to enter the U.S. Army as an officer, but due to a variety of circumstances, ended up also being drafted as a private into the service. He recalled that one of the most enjoyable days of his life occurred while he was in boot camp as a private; a jeep roared up with an urgent message that Private Dobbins had just been awarded a commission and was now Lieutenant Dobbins. He accepted the sergeant’s kind offer to join him at the sergeant’s dinner table that evening. He went on to attain the rank of Major. While in the service, he was stationed for active duty in Tokyo, Japan where son James III was born. When returning to the U.S. after service in the army, he found that his dissertation topic had been completed by someone else, requiring him to start his dissertation project all over again. As his family notes, one of his defining traits is that he did not complain about this unfortunate turn of events and instead responded with grace, perseverance, and good cheer. 

Jim and Jackie moved to Winston-Salem in 1958 when he joined the research department at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, where he worked his entire career, retiring in 1989. Jim was a long-time member of Knollwood Baptist Church and greatly enjoyed singing in the choir for many years. 

In addition to being a research chemist, he was also gifted at design, and over his lifetime designed a number of things including their own home in Winston-Salem; 

this home reflected an Asian influence owing to their three very happy years spent in Japan, and the home is now listed on the North Carolina Modernist Houses website as an example of mid-century modernist architectural design. 

In later years, Jim greatly loved the role of being granddaddy to Scott, and the family spent many wonderful days together at the beach and in the garden. Jim and Jackie moved to Carolina Meadows south of Chapel Hill in 2011 to be near both of their sons. 

He was a lifelong advocate and supporter of the UNC chemistry department, having founded a scholarship fund for graduate students named in honor of his father. He also enjoyed Carolina sports for many years and attended basketball games with his family for almost 45 years and football games in Kenan Stadium over a span of 80 years. 

Jim’s family notes that he was a man with traits that endeared him to many; he excelled at patience, generosity, and most of all, love. He was a genuinely loving and gracious person who never had an unkind word. He had a warm sense of humor, which he retained to the end. His family considers it a tremendous gift from God to have shared these many years with him as husband, father, and grandfather. He was a man who was gentle, kind, and with attributes that truly define what it means to be a great person. 

He passed away peacefully after a prolonged decline, but he retained his beautiful personality until the end. He died surrounded by his family. 

His family is grateful for the excellent care provided for Jim over the years by his primary care physicians, Dr. William Hough and Dr. Bruce Brasher in Winston-Salem, and Dr. Lee Berkowitz at UNC. They also are grateful for the exemplary care provided by Aegis Home Care and principal care providers Patricia Cobb-Montana, Irene Njoroge, Clemence Gasana, and Monique Kambaji. 

A memorial service was held at Carolina Meadows Auditorium at 11 am on Monday September 24.  A second service will be scheduled at Knollwood Baptist Church at a later date to enable friends from the Winston-Salem area to attend. Condolences may be sent to the family at 2 Carolina Meadows, Apt 102, Chapel Hill, NC 27517.

In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome contributions to the Professor James T. Dobbins Sr. Memorial Fund in the Department of Chemistry at UNC-CH (send to UNC Department of Chemistry, Campus Box 3290, Chapel Hill 27599-3290). Walker’s Funeral Home of Chapel Hill has been entrusted to care for the Dobbins family.