If you are reading this smile, because that is what James would like to see.
James L. Denson (Jimmy), Age 90 slipped quietly from this life on May 22, 2023 after a long battle with lung cancer. He is survived by his son Danny Denson of Kingston Springs, TN; daughter Lisa Denson of Brentwood, TN; Grandson Jason Alexander of Kingston Springs, TN; sister Joan Jones of Hendersonville, TN; two nephews and countless friends. Born in Nashville, TN in 1933, he is pre-deceased by his wife and teenage sweetheart Annie and also by his parents, Robert and Thelma Denson Cook.
James left his signature on Nashville’s skyline as a leader on commercial construction projects all across the city. From his early days with Foster & Creighton, making the front page of the Nashville Banner in 1953 installing the very first parking meters on Capital Blvd downtown, to his retirement at age 70 from The Parent Company, Jimmy was a well-respected driving force ensuring each project he managed came in “on time & under budget”. He loved doing his part to help transform the city into what it is today.
While Jimmy was witness to remarkable change & growth in Nashville, his values remained remarkably unchanged – family was first, friends were life-long and work was never finished. He lived his life with utter humility, a quiet strength and loving respect for everyone he came in contact with. These were the values he worked to instill in his children and grandchild – not by lecture or reprimands, but by example.
One of Jimmy’s favorite commercial building projects was the impetus for the logo of the Nashville Predators and their mascot Gnash. Jimmy served as Superintendent on construction of First American Plaza (now UBS Tower) at 4th and Union in downtown Nashville. Blasting more than 30 feet into limestone during excavation for the high-rise bank, his crew hit the remains of a cave complete with a Saber-tooth tiger skeleton holding 9 inch fangs, bones of a mastodon and bones of 4 humans. Jimmy hosted many archeologists at the site, including Carnegie Museum of Natural History as this was a very unusual find for the area. Jimmy and the team decided to engineer around the cave with steel & concrete and install an access hatch for later expeditions. The Saber-tooth cat & other remains were on display in the bank lobby for many years and later moved to Bridgestone Arena with portions moved to the Smithsonian. Mr. Jimmy found great joy in taking folks to see the Smilodon once on display and tell the stories of a once in a lifetime find.
Other Nashville landmarks James provided oversight for during the course of his long career include: Vanderbilt Stadium, the first Nashville Convention Center on Broadway, Nashville Electric Service, Vanderbilt Law School Addition, Vanderbilt Hospital West Wing & Heliport, Kirkland and Alexander Hall at Vanderbilt, Ford Glass Plant, UBS Tower 4th & Union, Maryland Farms Gateway 1, Burton Hills 3 & 4, David Lipscomb University Library, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, and SunTrust Bank Music Row (now Truist) just to name a few. While re-building St. Ann’s Episcopal Church after the Nashville tornado in 1998, Rector Lisa Hunt placed a time capsule tribute to Jimmy inside the cornerstone of St. Ann’s for a job well done bringing the building back to life. Although James received numerous awards for various projects throughout his career in commercial construction, St. Ann’s was a favorite for forging new friendships as well as saving a litter of newborn kittens that had taken up residence in the basement of the sanctuary while under construction.
Although having great success in his building career, his greatest success and priority was his family. Everyone was always impressed with his energy and enthusiasm, for helping his family, his friends and neighbors. James never met a stranger and he cherished greatly the life that was given to him. He was known as a genuinely good guy and a very loyal, loving husband and father.
Known for his great sense of humor, James loved to play jokes or to be the recipient of a good joke. Jimmy, to all that knew him, was the definition of a smile. He enjoyed lively, passionate discussions about “real” country music, his huge vegetable garden or his fairway perfect green grass. It is said that a man’s life can be measured by the positive influences he has had on others. James had that kind of influence – he was the guy everyone trusted as a friend, the guy who mentored new employees throughout his years as a contractor, and the guy who maintained the deep and eternal love for his wife, son, and daughter. His positive spirit will remain in our hearts forever as we know he is in heaven telling St. Peter jokes and saving us all a seat!
Dad was a wonderful Husband, Father and Grandfather. He will be forever remembered as having a life well lived and being a man well-loved because to live in the hearts of loved ones is never to die.
A public celebration of Jimmy’s life will be held Friday, May 26th, 2023 at 10:30 am at Harpeth Hills Memorial Gardens, 9090 Highway 100, Nashville, TN 37221. Burial will follow at Harpeth Hills. Memorial tributes can be made to the Harpeth Conservancy, 215 Jamestown Park, Suite 101, Brentwood, TN 37027 or Nashville Humane Association, 213 Oceola Ave, Nashville, TN 37209.