Jim Oakley has had two distinct and distinguished careers.
Raised in Bibb County, Alabama, Oakley worked in the family business, the Centreville Press, a weekly, from the time he was a boy, at first sweeping the floors and delivering the papers.
After high school graduation, Oakley entered the University of Alabama, where he joined Theta Chi fraternity, in the fall of 1953. He had football scholarship offers at Georgia Tech and Auburn but those schools did not have journalism departments, and that was a deal breaker. While an undergraduate, Oakley served on the three-person university news bureau and was the staff photographer.
His vivid pictures documenting the chaos surrounding Autherine Lucy’s 1956 attempt to integrate the University have been donated to the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library.
After graduation with a B.A. in 1958 Oakley returned to the Press, becoming publisher after the death of his father in 1972. Besides running the paper for 27 years, Oakley was chairman of the board of the Bibb (County) Medical Center and continues to serve the community as chairman of the Trustmark Financial Centreville Branch bank board of directors. He has been president of The Kiwanis Club and a member of the Centreville City Council.
Oakley was elected to the 1972 Democratic National Convention and served a four-year term on the state Democratic Executive Committee from 1972-1976.
He was in 1979-1980 president of the Alabama Press Association and from 1971-1985 served on the Alabama Commission of Higher Education, which he chaired from 1980-1982.
In 1984, Oakley sold the paper, intending to retire, but was called almost immediately by Dean Ed Mullins to teach journalism here for a while, sharing his lifetime of experience.
Oakley agreed, and a one-year stint has turned into a second career, first as a teacher of journalism and then as career counselor and recruiter for the College of Communication and information Sciences. He also served from 1986-2003 as chairman of the UA Media Planning Board.
Almost daily, Jim Oakley guides potential students and their parents on their “school shopping tour” and is considered irresistible, but his work is just begun. He counsels communication students throughout their careers here, works to get students internships, and aids in placement.
The students and the University have shown their deep appreciation with induction into the Student Media Hall of Fame, The Walter R. Guyton Student Services Award from the Alabama Chapter of ODK, the Kappa Tau Alpha Commitment to Teaching Award, the Sara Healey Award of the UA Media Planning Board and the Knox Hagood Staff award from CCIS.
A member of Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists, Oakley, a past president, has been recognized by his colleagues in journalism statewide with the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Alabama Press Association for his outstanding accomplishments in his journalism career.
Oakley was called to help establish the Troy University Hall School of Journalism and serves on their Board of Visitors.
Jim and his wife, Shirley, now deceased, had three children, Mike, Bill, and Melanie, all graduates of the University. Oakley has eight grandchildren.
Still serving the college and its students with unabated enthusiasm, James W. Oakley is most worthy of induction into the College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame, class of 2013.