Local leader passes on at age 60

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Greenville lost a quiet leader Saturday when Jim Newton, 60, died of an apparent brain hemorrhage. Newton, a life-long resident of Greenville, was a partner in his family's business, Newton Oil, and his loss is being felt throughout the community.

"He did so many wonderful things for this community," said Roberta Gamble, production chairperson for the Greenville Arts Council. "His mother has been a friend of mine for 40 years and my heart is just breaking for her."

Gamble said Newton was the type of individual who liked to work behind the scenes but played an integral role in keeping the arts alive in Greenville.

"He was our fiscal officer for 22 years," she said. "That means he wrote every check. I just called him last Thursday and I needed stamps to mail our new fliers announcing next year's productions and he brought the stamps to my house. He had just so much sense and such a dry wit. He supported all of us and our role. He wasn't in to being back stage or anything like that. He did the work and he just did it so graciously."

An early riser, Newton's white truck could always be seen in front of his business and many local business people would stop by and get insight from him on various topics. Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said he often used Newton as a sounding board in his personal and professional life.

"I was real close to him," said McLendon of his friend. "He was just about the best hearted guy I've ever known. I probably got more opinions about things from him than anybody in this town. I'm going to have a hard time looking out the window at Newton Oil and not seeing that white truck out there."

McLendon said he often visited with Newton when he needed advice, but also dropped in and talked with him when he needed his spirits lifted.

"That was my release valve over there," McLendon said, referring to the offices of Newton Oil. "I would look out the window and see that white truck and go over there and always came back in a better mood."

Longtime friend and college buddy Bobby Rogers said Newton's loss is difficult to fathom.

"Everybody I talked to said he was a great guy and would do anything for you," Rogers said. "If you needed a favor you didn't hardly have to ask him, he'd just do it for you. Somebody told me he was just one of the good guys in the world and he was."

Rogers said Newton wasn't one for material things or praise, but was more interested in experiencing the company of friends and family.

"I met him in 1964 and we played intramural sports together while we were at Troy State," he said. "I was telling somebody the other day that when he graduated from Troy he skipped the ceremonies and he and I went and played golf together down in Brundidge. He's always been one of my best friends and I know everybody in town is going to miss old Jim. It's going to be hard to go by the gas company and not be able to see him."

Newton's funeral was held yesterday and friends, colleagues and family members paid tribute to the man who, according to family friend Allen Stephenson, lived a faith-filled and productive life in service of others.

Newton is survived by his beloved wife Joanne; one daughter, Portia Ellen; two brothers,

Charles Newton and his wife, Jan and Bill Newton and his wife Evelyn; his mother, Mrs. J.V. Newton; one step-daughter, Shannon and her husband Brian Dunn; one step-son, Justin Lovvorn and his wife Nikki; and three grandchildren, Mason Dunn, Taylor Dunn and Noah Lovvorn.