James Emory Swofford, known to all as Jim, was called home on the afternoon of Saturday, June 5, 2021. Swofford, 84, of Wilkesboro passed on at Wake Forest Baptist Health-Wilkes Medical Center, surrounded by his family.
A Celebration of Life Service for Mr. Swofford will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 19, 2021, at First United Methodist Church of North Wilkesboro. The family will receive friends immediately following the service in the Stone Center.
Swofford was the president of Dermox, Inc., in North Wilkesboro where he and his brother, Carl Swofford, became successful businessmen in the vending and restaurant field and followed in the footsteps of their father, Jack Swofford, who moved his family to North Wilkesboro to start a Goodyear Tire business in the late 1940s.
As Jim grew, and grew some more, he demonstrated a true talent for singing and playing football. In fact, he grew so much at such a young age that Jim was playing some football for the Wilkes Central High School Varsity football squad when he was in sixth grade. By eighth grade, Swofford played most of the varsity games for WCHS. By high school, Swofford worked under Coach Red Hoffman to achieve All State honors and a football scholarship to Duke University. At Duke, Swofford was a stand-out left tackle who “played both ways,” as he put it, meaning he played on the defensive and the offensive lines. He was a member of Duke’s 1958 Orange Bowl squad and the 1959 Cotton Bowl team and later, while serving as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Swofford played football for the Marine Corps squad that won the 1960 Inter Service League Championship.
From a young age, Jim Swofford loved music and singing came naturally to him. His voice and sincere presentation were constantly in demand for wedding ceremonies, church services and public gatherings. For many years, he sang in the church choir at First United Methodist Church in North Wilkesboro.
Following college, and after marrying his high school sweetheart and Duke Alum, Jo Custis Doughton, Jim and Jodi welcomed their first child, Christopher Todd, and moved the young family to Camp Lejune, N.C., where Swofford served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Later, Swofford was deployed for the potential assault on Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and was stationed in Cuba following the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis. Jim Swofford was proud to be a Marine and he considered his service an honor and one of the highlights of his life. He was involved in the lives of other Marines and remained dedicated to the Corps through his service in the Williams/Canter Detachment 1187 of the Marine Corps League and through his membership in VFW Post 1142.
Swofford left the Marine Corps and moved his family to North Wilkesboro following the untimely death of his father, Jack. He joined his mother Helen and his brother Carl in the family business, Swofford’s Incorporated, in 1964.
Jim and Jodi grew their family through the adoption of their dear daughter Heather Elizabeth in 1968. And in 1970 the family was made complete with the birth of Mark Doughton Swofford.
Following his mother’s retirement, Jim and his brother Carl went into the vending and food service business with the founding of Dermox, Inc. Dermox eventually provided food services to all Holly Farms production facilities on the East Coast, as well as Lowe’s Companies former headquarters on N.C. 268 in North Wilkesboro. In 1976, Dermox Inc. of West Virginia was founded and began building Hardee’s restaurants in Bluefield and Princeton, W.Va. Eventually Dermox would open and operate 37 restaurants in West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina. Jim, and his brother Carl won many awards from Hardee’s including Franchisee of the Year and the “Legends of Hardee’s” award. Jim was instrumental in the creation of the first Hardee’s Franchisee Association in 1998.
In 2002, Carl and Jim, and their sons, Jeff and Todd, opened Brushy Mountain Smokehouse and Creamery, featuring the barbecue that Jeff Swofford frequently made for his friends and family. Jim saw a vision for the restaurant that included homemade ice cream, and through the work of Dermox regional manager William Clark, the concept became reality.
Through the years, Swofford proved himself as both a business and community leader. He served as the Co-Chairman and Chairman of the Wilkes County Republican Party. He was appointed to the inaugural N.C. Zoo Council and chaired that body for eight years while initiating, planning and constructing the N.C. Zoological Park near Asheboro. He served on the N.C. Zoo Council Board for 22 years and considered his work for the zoo one of his greatest honors. Swofford also served on the N.C. Natural Resources Community Development Board for eight years and on the Parks and Recreation Council for eight years. Swofford also loved his involvement with the North Wilkesboro Rotary Club, where he was a charter member.
Jim Swofford was a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church of North Wilkesboro where he served as a Lay Speaker, Sunday School Teacher, Cook, Choir Member and Administrative Council Member and Chairman. His faith in God developed into what became a very personal ministry for him that he strived to live each day.
He departed this mortal plane with his family surrounding him singing songs that he often sang for his family. He proved to be a man of courage and grace right to the end as he assured his family of his love and thanked them for such a wonderful life.
He was predeceased by his brother, William Oliver Swofford and his wife, Becky, and his parents, Carl “Jack” and Helen Swofford.
Swofford is survived by his wife of 63 years and the love of his life, Jodi Doughton Swofford, who he considered “the finest woman he ever knew;” his brother Carl and wife Peggy of North Wilkesboro, his brother John and wife Nora of Greensboro; son Todd Swofford and wife Diana of Wilkesboro; his grandson Aaron Swofford of Richmond and grandson Ethan Swofford of Wilkesboro; daughter Heather Johnson Swofford and husband Heath Johnson of North Wilkesboro; son Mark Swofford and wife Monica; grandson Sam Henry, granddaughter Emma of San Antonio, Texas, and grandson Lt. Jack Swofford of Fort Benning, Ga.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church of North Wilkesboro P.O. Box 1145, North Wilkesboro, N.C., or to Ebenezers Christian Children’s home P.O. Box 2777, North Wilkesboro, N.C., 28659.
Online condolences may be made at www.reinssturdivant.com.