Crowley’s Ridge Academy is proud to announce the recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award. This year’s deserving alumni are Jim (‘59) and Julie (Williams, ‘61) Chester.
Jim and Julie met at Crowley’s Ridge Academy in 1958. Jim came as a senior that year, and Julie was a sophomore and was best friends with Jim’s younger sister, Mary (Chester, ‘61) Parkinson. It would be impossible to overstate the impact teachers at CRA had on these two young people. Ray Wright was especially influential in Jim’s decision to become a chorus director.
They attended Harding College, where Julie majored in Elementary Education and Jim majored in Music Education. They married in May of 1963, and Julie graduated from Harding at the end of the summer of 1964. Julie taught for a year at Pangburn while Jim finished his degree. Jim graduated in 1965 and they moved to Paragould. Jim and Julie taught at CRA 65-66. During their year at CRA they produced and directed an elementary musical, Cinderella. Jim directed the chorus of 40 7-12th graders. In December of 1965 the chorus presented a Christmas program of favorite Christmas songs, and readings to raise money to buy new chorus robes. The highlight of the evening was a performance of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Jim and Julie moved to Memphis, TN in 1966, so Jim could pursue a Masters Degree at Memphis State University. Julie began teaching at Harding Academy of Memphis, and Jim worked at his brother’s engineering firm while going to school at night and on Saturday. In 1967 Jim began teaching at Treadwell High School. Jim received an MME from Memphis State University in 1968. That same year Jim was hired as the song leader at Highland Street Church of Christ, a position he still holds. Jim joined the faculty at Harding Academy as the chorus director in 1969, and directed young people in three junior high choruses and the high school a cappella chorus for 39 years.
In 1979, Julie began working on a library science degree at Memphis State University, and served as the assistant librarian at Harding Academy, then at Grant Elementary School and Lester Elementary School before returning as head librarian at Harding.
Their daughters, Autumn Chester Marshall and Tiffany Chester Parkhurst, both graduated from Harding Academy. Autumn now teaches at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN; Tiffany serves as a pharmacist for LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, and is now a member of the Board of Trustees for Harding Academy. Jim retired from teaching in 2008, but continues to lead singing for Highland Church in Memphis. Julie retired as librarian in 2012; both Jim and Julie continue to be active at Harding Academy, now as grandparents. They have been married for 56 years, and continue to support Christian education in every way possible.
The Chesters will be honored at CRA’s Homecoming on Friday, December 6. Jim & Julie will speak at combined chapel that morning at 9:45am, and they will also be recognized that night prior to the presentation of the Homecoming court.
CRA invites all former members of the school’s chorus to an Alumni Chorus performance at Homecoming on Friday, Dec. 6. The chorus will perform four songs that evening: “My God and I,” “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” CRA’s Alma Mater, and “In That Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’” under the direction of Jim Chester. A brief rehearsal will be held that afternoon, starting at 5pm in the Emmett Smith Auditorium. Please spread the word and let us know if we can count on your participation!