In Memoriam

James Tyler Estes, Jr.
25April 2017

USAFA wisely recruited this multi-sport and multi-talented Tarheel, a natural athlete who also excelled academically.

Possessing a southern demeanor and temperament, Jim spoke sparsely yet with abundant meaning. His talent for terse, dead-pan humor tested everyone's capacity for suppressing laughter, especially when he chose to unleash it, under his breath, during the most ceremonious of occasions.
Jim was musically trained and loved the great Soul and R&B music of the time. It resonated naturally with his Carolina roots. And, because of his serious vocal artistry, he could even cover a James Brown riff, often filling in with local bands. He liked piloting his '68 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans convertible to those gigs, described, in his words as, "turkey-turd green."

Jim never met anyone he didn't like. In spite of his unerring instinct for sniffing out a stuffed shirt or BS artist, he embraced everyone and found a way to enfold them within the tapestry of his own journey. He was a zeit geist with intellectual chops, the heart of an artist and the unadulterated soul of a child. He couldn't wait to see what tomorrow might bring.
Endowed with natural leadership qualities, Jim was not judgmental; he was, influential. A born fighter jock, he demonstrated his prowess as a calm, steady flight commander in his firstie year. But then, he received the heartbreaking news that his eyesight would not meet the pilot qualification criteria.

Of course, Jim possessed a rare combination of spirit and toughness, could take a punch with the best of 'em, and proceeded to his backup plan. He rededicated himself to becoming a different kind of warrior; on the ground, in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for his exceptionally devoted and heroic efforts while spending long and dangerous tours in-country as a procurement officer. His efforts assured that our troops and airmen had the best of everything necessary to secure their survival, success and well-being.

He went on to distinguish himself as the first Zoomie to matriculate from the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law. But, before he could do so, he would suffer still one more crushing encounter with adversity when, his father, who'd always admired the legal profession and, expressed his own desire to practice law, died suddenly, just as Jim was preparing for his final exams. With only days to spare, he displayed his extraordinary strength and depth of character, flying home grief-stricken to North Carolina, to settle his father's affairs, then returning immediately to complete the tasks that would have made his father so proud, had he been there to share it with him.

He went on to make unique contributions as a respected leader of Hawaii's distinguished Bar for over 40 years. Whatever he'd given away in eyesight he more than made up for with insight, not to mention, sheer guts.

One could not complete a proper remembrance of Jim, without at least a nod… to golf. He was devoted to and excelled at the game. He loved having friends visit him in Hawaii, duffers included, for whom the best part of that invitation was not the privilege of playing those great courses but, far better, playing alongside a great guy who, could play them scratch!

Perhaps it was inevitable that Hawaii found Jim and neither would ever look back. He deeply loved and fully respected the people and the place, finding there his eternal home.

(Submitted by Stephanie Estes, Jim's daughter; his wife, Brett; his brother Rick, and Bob Marks '68.)

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