farewell to a friend

July 10th 2014 Comments: 22 Topics: , ,

Over the course of our 30 year history as a firm, we’ve had the pleasure of having many talented folks join our table.  Some have stayed to dine, others have taken the sustenance they’ve gained in our midst and moved on to other enterprises.
230031_1990059399918_6033283_nOne such fellow was James Murray. James was among the first batch of interns from Auburn University (where Bobby McAlpine taught part time for almost a decade). James came aboard one summer, along with a very young Chris Tippett (who’s now a partner at McAlpine Tankersley). A Landscape Architecture student hailing from Ozark, Alabama, James was a sweet spirit up for any task presented to him.  

As a matter of fact, James’ and Chris’ first undertaking as interns was the distinctly unglamorous job of spreading pine straw in the Alabama heat at Bobby’s new Lake Martin cabin. This was done, not with complaint, but with James’ ever-present jovial gusto. He had previously worked at a local nursery and getting his hands dirty was not something at which he balked. After this literal “trial by fire”, his talents were better put to use by designing and drawing landscape plans for a number of our first built projects. His lovely handiwork still grows and blossoms at these homes to this day.  

We had the joy of his company for a few years before he moved to Nashville to pursue his horticultural career. Over the years, we kept up with James and his progress as a budding Landscape Architect and he would stop in to visit us whenever his trails led him back through Montgomery. His wicked humor and beautiful smile were always a welcome sight – an old friend that had set full sail returning to port but for a while.

A few years ago James was diagnosed with ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He bore this debilitating illness with undaunted courage and carried it bravely through the rest of his life. Undeterred and with a new fire, he used his plight as a path for continued education concerning this insidious disease. His spirited fight was seemingly unstoppable.  

Unfortunately, he lost his battle a few weeks ago.

Rest well, dear friend. An empty chair has been left at our large table.

Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley


  1. What a beautifully touching tribute. Wish I had known him.

  2. Ann Marie Gent says:

    ….a lovely tribute.

  3. D2zen says:

    Your eloquence in tribute to a now-absent friend is touching. It’s also a lesson in how to make, laud and keep friends. TY for sharing James with your readers.

  4. Linda says:

    A sweet remembrance of a valued friend. T
    hank you for sharing his story, his fight, and the tale of his courage.

  5. david braly says:

    Wonderful and heartfelt words, Greg. James interned with me one post pine straw summer, working on preparatory drawings for a mural, and, eventually, the mural itself. I cannot add much to what you have written , only to say James was a most welcomed guest at other tables, too, and that his courage, like his spirit, was indomitable.

  6. Bonnie says:

    The gift of a truly great writer is one who lets you get inside the story. I didn’t know James yet you made him so real for those of us reading about him. Thank you for sharing this. Beautiful, loving tribute.

  7. Gaines Blackwell says:

    Greg and the Firm,
    I am just broken hearted to read this. I had a great fondness For James, with his skill and talent but also for that truly wicked Richard Rome, David Braly, Greg Tankersley,& Bobby MacAlpine sense of humor . Our world is a lessor place without him.

    What a beautiful tribute, Greg, it is how we all would like to be remembered, by old and genuine friends .

  8. Janet LeGrand says:

    Beautifully written Greg.

  9. Dale Entrekin says:

    I did not know James as either a horticulturist or architect, but as one of the finest, kindest, and funniest Christian men I have known. He will indeed be missed.

  10. Beautiful, Greg. I have, unfortunately, seen that wicked disease up close and personal. There is no love between us. So sorry for your loss.

  11. Lisa Ruby says:

    Thank you for this tribute…such a fine man. He was my treasured friend…
    Will attempt to keep his joyous spirit alive in my every thought and action.

  12. Todd Blackwell says:

    James was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. A great studio classmate always willing to help any of us. Thanks for the tribute.

  13. Kathi Gilleland says:

    James was truly a special guy. He always wore a smile and was ready with a hug. The horticultural world here in Nashville has lost a gifted soul.

  14. Bob Ross says:

    A beautiful tribute to what I imagine was an exceptional young man from what I consider one of the classiest, most professional teams in the field of architecture.

  15. Susan S says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend James. A touching tribute indeed, Mr. Tankersley.

  16. Kay Jacoby says:

    James was a dear friend of mine — from childhood until present. I will always miss him, however, I will always think of him and smile. Thanks for this beautiful tribute.

  17. David Wiegand says:

    A very nice tribute to a job that was well done to this gentleman. Very commendable to you and I applaud you for the respect given to him.

  18. Ann and Sam Phillips says:

    This is a beautiful tribute. James was a dear friend to me an my husband, and a classmate. James was truly a great man who will be missed.We will see you one day!

  19. Linda Mathews says:

    I could only hope to touch as many souls as you did here on this earth. When I get up to Heaven with you maybe I can help you hold all our crowns :).

    I am very blessed that God picked me to be a caregiver for you.

  20. Cliff Gold says:

    Greg,A beautiful tribute.

  21. Kay Horrell says:

    We knew and love James as well.He is loved, admired and missed by many in Nashville.

  22. charles torgerson says:

    Rarely you Stumble across Old Memorable Familiar Faces and Names as you Wander the Web. This Deeply Saddens me. I have Through the years wondered what Great things happened to James. I hope I am wrong, but deep down know I am not. I can see Him in his Eyes although when i knew him he had crazy Wavy hair. James was a year or two ahead of me in High School, had a Large Family-if I recall twin Brothers, and Sisters.. He Played the French Horn, and was Extremely Artistic. I Often Wished I Could Have Been Him– because He was so Different from everyone else in a Quiet Proud Confident but Unassuming Way — very Comfortable with himself. He Was a Kind Soul- I Chatted with Him Often, Listened to His Ideas and Always found his Presence Enlightening. Bless Him and His Family….

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