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Lefler, Johnson County stalwart passes at 91

Former Johnson County Register of Deeds James Lefler, left, Freida Gwinn, Trish Hartley, at the Johnson County Court House. Submitted photo.

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

James Lefler, World War II veteran, former Register of Deeds and long-time member of the Mountain City Fire Department, died Aug 13 in Elizabethton at Hermitage Health and Rehabilitation Center at age 91.
“Meeting James in 1989 was one of the biggest blessings of my life,” said Trish Hartley, who succeeded Lefler by being elected Register, served as his deputy for years. “He not only gave me a job that I loved but quickly became a great friend to my family and me.”
Born in McDowell County, West Virginia, Lefler married wife, Charlotte in 1948. The couple had two children. During World War ll, Lefler served in the U.S. Army in the Medical Administrative Corps.
After the war, Lefler began working at Mountain View Service Station, where he worked for 24 years. In 1984, Lefler was elected as Johnson County Register of Deeds. He was re-elected to serve seven terms for a total of 28 years before officially retiring in 2012.
“I knew Jim Lefler basically all of my life,” said George Wright, local attorney, “but more so during the past 40 plus years of my practice, the majority of which involved real estate.” Wright recalls one of Lefler’s favorite sayings concerning individuals was that “He’s a man you don’t meet every day.” He suggests this could be construed two ways depending upon the context. “Jim’s character, honesty, devotion to his family, community, and God made him truly a member of America’s greatest generation,” said Wright. “I know that when he passed through the
Pearly Gates last week, St. Peter would say that ‘There goes a man you don’t meet every day’ in a positive sense.”
Tammie Fenner, Johnson County Clerk, also recalls looking up to Lefler as a leader during their years working together at the courthouse. “I count it a great honor to have worked with James,” she said. “He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and we immediately bonded.”
Lefler served in various capacities in Johnson County throughout the years.
He was a 50-year member of the Taylorsville Masonic Lodge #243 F & AM and earned a degree of Master Mason in addition to being a founding member of the Johnson County Rescue Squad where he was an
active member for 47 years. He also worked as a firefighter for 30 years with the Mountain City Fire Department.
“He was a jewel that will be dearly missed by many,” said Hartley.