James “Jim” Victor Spencer III, 79, of Birmingham, Alabama, passed away peacefully on Friday, August 25 at his home while surrounded by his family. He was a kind and praiseworthy man who prioritized his Christian faith, his family, and service to his church and community throughout his life.
Born on June 29, 1944 to James Victor Spencer, Jr. and Mary Margaret Strawn Spencer, Jim, or “Jimmy,” as his beloved mother liked to call him, lived with his family mainly in El Dorado, Arkansas, where he spent his life. Childhood and adulthood and practiced law until moving to Alabama in 1998. The Spencer family has lived in El Dorado for many generations and Jim was always proud to call that city his home before making his new home in Alabama.
Jim graduated with a law degree in 1968 from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. After law school, he returned to El Dorado and joined his father and grandfather’s law firm, where he practiced multiple areas of law, but ultimately focused on real estate. estate planning and oil and gas law. Jim served as El Dorado city attorney from 1971 to 1979 and was a circuit judge for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Arkansas from 1989 to 1991. He assisted the Arkansas Supreme Court as a special associate judge in 1979, 1987, and 1989.
He remained a member of the Arkansas and Alabama bar until his death.
In 1998, Jim moved to Birmingham, Ala.. to be close to his beloved soon-to-be wife, Diana Spencer, and began practicing law in the Birmingham, Ala. area. He worked at the law firm of Carpenter Dinaburg from 2000 to 2003 and eventually opened a private practice. His wife’s children and grandchildren, also living in Birmingham, became his children.
He and his wife began attending and were actively involved in Highlands United Methodist Church in downtown Birmingham. He especially cherished teaching adult Sunday school classes in both Birmingham and El Dorado and served in leadership roles in the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
He served as a Methodist adult Sunday school teacher for over 30 years. His Christian faith played a major role in his life and he demonstrated this through generous love and service to others, participation in church, morning devotions with his wife, and enjoyment of God’s creation through nature.
In 2005, Jim completed the New York City Marathon, which is one of the most important items for him. Meeting his friends and his wife at the finish line was something he cherished and talked about often.
Jim has served as President (2008-2009) of the Shades Valley Rotary Club and in leadership roles at the Eldorado Rotary Club. He was a senior member of the 117th Alabama National Guard Squadron Civilian Air Patrol. He was also a member of the Alabama Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
For nearly two decades, he’s enjoyed the role of Santa Claus. And at Christmas parties, fundraisers, and Sunday school, he would dress up in his red suit and treat his playful “alter ego” to family and friends.
Jim is awarded the rank of Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow’s Vigil Honor within the Boy Scouts of America. As an adult, he served in several leadership roles with the Scouts, including as Chief Scout, Board Member, and Legal Counsel for the De Soto District Council of South Central Arkansas.
Jim smiled easily and gave encouragement easily. His deep happiness came from supporting and spending time with the Alabama and Arkansas families. He offered loving advice, the gift of a handyman, and a sympathetic ear when any member of the family needed it.
He was a talented guitarist and would often entertain his family with 60’s popular songs like “The Lemon Tree” by Peter, Paul and Mary. He used his musical talents for the Kairos Prison Ministry, making many friends visiting prisoners and singing songs.
Jim had many hobbies and interests including exploring the outdoors, camping, fishing, watching the Arkansas Razorbacks play, smoking meat for loved ones on a Green Egg, reading about history, playing and singing music, hiking and mountain biking.
As a husband, he was a fun-loving partner who enjoyed quiet moments at home and on a Gulf Coast beach. As a parent, he was a loving, caring, and stable provider for his children as they grew up, and a constant, wise, comforting presence into adulthood. As a grandfather, he loved to laugh and enjoyed his role as “grandfather”.
Jim’s death was preceded by his father, James Victor Spencer, Jr. Mother Mary Margaret Strong Spencer. Sister Margaret Spencer Pierce. son-in-law, Bob Dipper, all of El Dorado; and sister-in-law Coralie Spencer of Mountain Home, Ark.
He is survived by his wife, Diana Spencer, of Hoover, Ala. children Mary Carroll Pederson (Jason) of Little Rock, Arkansas, Christopher James Spencer (Krista) of Fayetteville, Elizabeth Ann Spencer of Little Rock, Shannon Diane Paul (Chris) of Birmingham, and Stephanie Paul Smith (Jason) of Vistavia; grandchildren Spencer Pederson, Shelby Pederson, Chloe Gorbett, Madison Gorbett, Alexandra Paul, Sophia Smith and Claire Smith; brother Rick Spencer (Brenda) and sister Mary Dipper (Bob); her mother-in-law, Mary Davis Reynolds; And many nephews and nieces.
The family will hold two memorial services to honor Jim’s commitment to his family and friends in Alabama and Arkansas.
The memorial service will take place at 1pm on Saturday, September 23 at Highlands United Methodist Church, 1045 South 20th Street in Birmingham. Highlands UMC Senior Pastor Micah Hudson will preside over the service.
A second service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 30 at First United Methodist Church, 201 South Hill Street in El Dorado where Jim’s family has attended for several decades. The service will be presided over by longtime United Methodist minister Dr. Walter L. Bubba Smith.
In lieu of flowers, give souvenirs to the Highlands United Methodist Church (highlandsumc.net) or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (lls.org).