James Lemaster

James Lemaster

James Lemaster is believed to be the only graduate of DAR High School to ever be elected to the state Senate. 

The DAR organization presented him a plaque for that achievement in a special ceremony last week. His achievement will be noted in the new museum being developed at DAR School that tells a lot about the history of the community and the school. 

Lemaster played basketball as a Patriot and graduated in 1957. 

"There were 38 of us in the senior class," he said. "It was the largest class in the history of the school up until that time."

He played college basketball at Southern Union after high school, then moved to Jackson County. He'd taken engineering drawing in college, a skill that would serve him well. 

He married the former Annie Sharp, moved to Jackson County and became a general contractor when he got out of school. That wasn't a stretch for him. He'd done construction work while in high school.

From 1978-82, he was the state senator who represented Jackson County and a portion of Madison County in the legislature. It's the same seat that Lowell Barron would eventually hold for many, many years. 

"I built FHA houses for awhile," Lemaster said. "It was kind of how I got my start. I helped a lot of people who couldn't have otherwise afforded a house to get one."

He would take a set of home plans and downsize them to make the home affordable for a person. 

Lemaster lived on the Cumberland Plateau near Skyline at the time. He got his first taste of politics when he was appointed to the Cumberland Water Authority. 

"It took us 4 or 5 years, but we built a water system," he said. Cumberland buys its water wholesale from Scottsboro. 

In the 1940s, Lemaster said, the state took over the roads of Jackson County due to corruption within the County Commission. 

"The roads around the county were pretty bad," he said. "I promised I would get the roads back under country control if I was elected so we could control our own destiny."

People had misgivings, he said, but he was able to get the unit system through for Jackson County.

"The County Commission hires the county engineer but the county engineer is in charge of the road system," he said. "It takes a lot of the politics out of road maintenance."

In addition to better roads, Lemaster was influential in getting the funding for a modern bridge to cross the Tennessee River alongside the old B.B. Comer bridge. 

"Fob James was the governor," Lemaster said. "He and people from his administration were always coming around trying to get support for their projects. He wanted to put on a 2-cent gas tax and he wanted my support."

Lemaster leveraged that to get the money for the new bridge, he said.

"They issued $480 million worth of bonds with the new tax," he said. "I got the money for the bridge."

He said he ended up getting $27 million for his district in all.

In addition to studying engineering drawing, Lemaster earned a bachelor's degree in free law with a minor in political science. He got a master's degree in economics.

He has taught "as a hobby" at Northeast State Junior College. Courses he's taught include salesmanship, business law, political science and economics.

The accomplishment he's most proud of, however, are his 3 sons. They all turned out to be pretty good men, he said. 

They are Chywonah, Darryl and Darchell. Chywonah developed the Broken Arrow Golf Course on Highway 79-N in Marshall County. 

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