James K. Rumrill of Mt. Pleasant, 91, died on December 15, 2023 at his home after a brief illness.
Jim was born in Springfield, MA on August 14, 1932. He grew up in the Boston area and graduated from The Roxbury Latin School.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in December 1952 and served on active duty as a cryptologic technician in Washington, D.C. and London until 1957 when he moved to reserve status and enrolled in the University of Florida. After completing his undergraduate studies, he taught history at the Gaud School in Charleston SC.
While working as a staff reporter for the News & Courier in Charleston during the summer of 1961 he met Barbara Poole. She lived on Queen Street. He lived on Church Street. They met through mutual friends in May and were married Labor Day weekend, beginning a partnership that lasted 62 years.
After receiving an honorable discharge from his reserve enlisted service, he accepted a direct commission as Ensign (designator 1615) in the Navy Readiness Reserves as well as a full fellowship from the University of Florida to complete a master’s degree focusing on International Relations and Russian Studies.
Jim and Barbara returned to Charleston in 1962 where he began his career in education as the Department Head for Social Studies at the Gaud School, where he also coached soccer. He continued in the same capacity after the school merged with Porter Military Academy in 1965. He initiated and directed the summer school program from 1966 through 1969. In 1969, he was named Upper School Principal of Porter-Gaud School. In 1974, he assumed the additional role of Assistant Headmaster and led the school through its initial self-evaluation resulting in accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Between 1977 and 1997 he served as headmaster of three schools: The Catawba School (Rock Hill, SC) 1977 - 1983, Asheville Country Day School (Asheville, NC) 1983-1988, and Christ Church Episcopal School (Greenville, SC) 1988-1997.
He was a founding member of the Palmetto Association of Independent Schools in 1978 and served as its Executive Director for a number of years after his retirement in 1997.
Jim was an extraordinary educator, a leader and a mentor to many, and whose ultimate motivation was to help every student and every colleague realize their potential. Early in his career as a headmaster, he received a gift from a young student who overcame academic difficulties during a time of turmoil in her life. The gift contained the caption: “A child is someone who passes through your life and disappears into an adult.” Reflecting on the role of educators within that theme, he wrote the following:
“One of the special privileges of teaching is to see the “end product” of your work years later as an adult…Working with children in a school setting is not work “per se.” It is dedication, a commitment. …In perspective, our profession is not concerned just with college preparation - we are preparing youngsters for a lifetime. Such preparation involves far more than academics, sports and extra curriculars, important though they are to the maturing process. Education focuses on the human condition in terms of caring and concern for others, a willingness to serve one’s community, the essence of leadership (and followership), the strength to stand firm in one’s beliefs despite all that swirls about us, and a commitment to truth and fairness. The opportunities to address these qualities and standards are many throughout a school day. What teachers, coaches and administrators do and say is absorbed by our students whether they or we are aware or not. As role models, our actions and reactions, our words, and our lifestyles have profound influence on the many children who pass through our lives on their way to becoming adults.”
Jim applied the same commitment and dedication in service to our country through his work as a reserve officer in Navy intelligence from 1961 until 1992, achieving the rank of captain in 1983. Active-duty training tours included the Naval War College, the National Security Agency, the Pentagon, and Chief of Naval Reserve Headquarters. Assignments included: Commanding Officer of NR Security Group Division 6-9, NAVRESSECGRU Communication Station 607, and NR DIRNSA FMDE 607; and Assistant Inspector General for Readiness Command Region Seven. In 1989 he received the Meritorious Service Medal for his work as Special Assistant for Cryptology on the Staff Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region Six from 1986 to 1989. During this time, he was responsible for program oversight and guidance to ten Naval Reserve Security Group units in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. He retired from the Navy in 1992.
He was active in every community he called home through organizations such as the Optimist Club of Charleston, the Disability Boards of Charleston and York counties, Rotary Clubs of Rock Hill and Greenville, The United Way of Asheville, Junior Achievement of Western NC, Greenville Symphony Endowment Board, and Greenville Literacy Association.
Raised in the Unitarian tradition, he found a spiritual home in The Episcopal Church later in life where he took an active role in the churches that he attended, beginning with St. James (James Island, SC), followed by Church of Our Savior (Rock Hill, SC), All Souls (Asheville, NC), and Christ Church (Greenville SC).
Jim and Barbara moved to Mt. Pleasant in 2017 to be near their children and grandchildren. In the last years of his life Jim was challenged by difficulty with his short-term memory, a fact that he recognized and accepted with grace and humor. He enjoyed excellent physical health until shortly before his passing.
Jim was preceded in death by his father, Melville Keith Rumrill and his mother, Lucretia Handy Rumrill.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara; two children, Keith Rumrill (Crystal) and Alyson Gray (Brian) of Mt. Pleasant; four grandchildren, Jessica Rumrill, Jordan Rumrill, Hannah Gray, and Hudson Gray; sister-in-law, Nancy Plumhoff (Ron) of Medfield, MA; and two nieces, Wendy Mollo (Steve) of Franklin, MA and Laurie Nealon (John) of Medfield, MA.
Interment with military honors will be private.
The memorial service will be Saturday, February 3, 2024, at 11am at Christ Episcopal Church, 2304 N. Hwy 17, Mt Pleasant, SC.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the James K. Rumrill Scholarship Endowment for Children of Christ Church Episcopal School Faculty and Staff. (The fund is held by the church for the benefit of the school). Please make checks payable to and mail to: Christ Church Episcopal, 10 N. Church Street, Greenville, SC 29601- noting “Rumrill” on the check. To give online go to www.ccgsc.org click on “Give Now” and choose “Memorial Gifts”, add “Rumrill” in the notes section.
Memorial contributions may also be directed to the Wounded Warrior Project (PO Box 758516, Topeka, KS 66675), www.woundedwarriorproject.org/donate
The family thanks the nurses and doctors at Roper Mt. Pleasant Hospital and Roper Hospice, and the caregivers at Home Instead for the incredible support and compassion they provided to Jim and to the family.