Copied from The Post Seachight, Bainbridge, GA
James W. (Jim) Stone, the founder of the Stone’s Home Centers chain of stores, passed
away Thursday, June 7 at Memorial Manor Nursing Home in Bainbridge. He was 94.
Stone opened his first store in Bainbridge in April 1959, at the age of 41, with the help
of his friend and financial partner, the late Charles H. Kirbo. The chain now has nine
stores located across Southwest Georgia and North Florida.
Stone was known for the friendly phrase he used in many of the store’s commercials
over the years: “There’s a Stone’s Store Near You!” It was also the title of his 2008
biography. After retiring in 1990 at the age of 72, he continued to actively promote his
chain of stores and served as chairman of the company’s board of directors.
As a boy growing up in Southwest Virginia, Stone worked at his family’s mill and
later helped his family tend to dairy cows. He learned to fish, hunt and ride horses,
activities he enjoyed for most of his life. As a boy, Stone rode a pony several miles
each day to attend school and later showed horses as a teen. Around the age of 65,
Stone bought a professional walking horse stallion, named Hilltopper, with which he
won numerous ribbons showing.
Stone had relatives in Valdosta, Ga., where he attended a year at Emory Junior College
in 1936-1937. After his parents could no longer afford college, Stone returned to
Virginia and worked at a farm, at a mill and as a bill collector before training to
become an Army pilot. He came to Bainbridge in 1943 to attend aviation cadet training
during World War II. He later served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a B-17 bomber
pilot, attaining the rank of Second Lieutenant. He was shot down over Germancontrolled
oil fields in Romania, and was taken as a prisoner of war. He was released
in September 1944 and returned to America via Italy.
Stone married and was a flight instructor at Moody Field in Valdosta, Ga., for a short
time before receiving a medical retirement from the Army in 1945
(due to a backinjury he sustained while flying overseas.)
After getting a degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia, he returned to
Bainbridge for good in 1949, at first working for the hardware store chain owned by
his father-in-law, J.D. Bower Sr., who had been in business since the 1920s. Stone
also worked for Western Auto and a Ford dealership in the 1950s, before starting his
“I was born in Virginia, but I got here just as fast as I could”, Stone was known for
saying about Bainbridge.
April 17, 2009 was declared “Jim Stone Day” in the City of Bainbridge, marking the
50th anniversary of the first Stone’s store.
Among other contributions to the community, the Stone family has been a major
supporter of the work of the Decatur-Seminole Service Center, which they founded
in 1970 with the help of a federal grant. The Stones had also helped organize the first
special education program in Decatur County in the 1960s. The Service Center, now
run under the Georgia Pines program in Thomasville, provides services and support
to people who have developmental disabilities and offers training and services to
increase their independence in the community.
Stone married Mary Tallulah Bower Stone, on Nov. 1, 1944 at the Bainbridge Air
Base Chapel. Mrs. Stone passed away in October 2011 at the age of 92. They had
two daughters, Laura and Joanna. Stone’s younger brother, Harold, passed away in
2002 after spending the latter part of his life in Bainbridge.
Stone’s civic involvement included past chairman of the United Way, past president
of the Bainbridge Rotary Club, past president of the Bainbridge-Decatur County
Chamber of Commerce, past president of two local mental health associations, past
chairman of the Bainbridge College Foundation and past chairman of the
Decatur/Seminole County Training Center for the Developmentally Disabled, a
member of the Governor’s Southwest Georgia Regional Mental Health and Mental
Retardation Advisory Council and director of the Southwest Georgia Health Systems
His friend Charles Kirbo introduced him to Jimmy Carter, who was at the time
running for Governor of Georgia. Upon his election in 1971, Governor Carter
appointed Stone to a commission which helped recommend candidates for
judgeships around the state. In his book, Stone recalled “Carter, who later became
the 39th President of the United States”coming to Bainbridge to attend Kirbo’s
funeral in 1996 and dropping by Stone’s store.
He was recognized by the Chamber as Bainbridge’s Man of the Year in 1987 and in
2007 he received the Chamber’s Community Service Award. He received the Hero
of Freedom Award at Grace Christian Academy in 2003.
Jim Stone has contributed immeasurably and unselfishly to the civic, business and
community life of Bainbridge and Decatur County for almost half a century, local
attorney and Rotarian Harold Lambert once said of Stone. Honesty, integrity and fair
dealings have exemplified a very successful and fulfilling life.
The late Raymond Miles, who passed away in 2010, was one of Stone’s business
contemporaries, along with the late Max Langston. Miles renovated an old motel in
West Bainbridge for use as the original service center for developmentally disabled
children. In Stone’s biography, Miles praises Stone’s civic contributions.
I think probably the training center was one of his greatest accomplishments, Miles
said. He had a vision of what could happen and he worked to make it happen … he’s
got plenty of determination … he built his business with hard work and looking after