James Thurston Nabors was born in Sylacauga, Alabama, June 12, 1930, to Fred and Mavis Nabors. Fred was a policeman and Mavis worked at a local restaurant, the Forks Café, on South Broadway near where Jim’s childhood home still stands. He had two sisters, Freddie(Angelo Danelutt) and Ruth (Chester
Collins), and a host of relatives. Sylacauga’s own, Ray McDiarmid, pharmacist and operator of the iconic Dixie Drugs is Jim’s cousin. Ray grew up in Sylacauga and is a wealth of information about anything or anybody Sylacauga, especially his
Jim Nabors was an outstanding talent, and when Judy Green, the current Curator at the Comer Museum and Art Center began organizing all the
memorabilia that is there at the museum and considered the man that should always be remembered as a favorite son because of his talent and achievement, she planned a 93rd birthday celebration. Jim, who passed in Hawaii in 2017, always considered his fans his friends.
The birthday celebration began on Friday, and people attended from Louisiana and Texas, as well as a good group from Sylacauga on a hot summer
afternoon. They were welcomed by Mayor Jim Heigl, and shared stories under the pavilion at City Park across from Blue Bell as Jim Nabors’ voice emanated from the DVD’s/TV’s that Judy had provided for our pleasure. Some took advantage of the wares of the food trucks in the park as bubbles floated in the air to welcome the children who attended. Saturday was the first round of the Jim Nabors/Gomer Pyle Trivia Contest, and the teams from Texas Stampede, to Jim’s Cousin, to Clueless in Sylacauga to Rex’s Wrecks had fun picking their brains for correct answers. The second round was held Sunday afternoon, and there was lots of laughter and some tough questions.
Jim Nabors led an amazing life. Graduating from Sylacauga High in 1947 and later from the University of Alabama with a degree in Business Administration. He worked as a typist at the United Nations in New York for a time. Later he went to California where he performed at The Horn, a club in Santa Monica. There he caught the attention of Andy Griffith. He was a great dancer even in his high school days, but his awe-inspiring baritone voice was perhaps the greatest surprise to his audiences because it was such a contrast to that of his country character, Gomer Pyle. He had 6 gold records and was well-known for singing, “Back Home in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 for 42 years. He first appeared on the Andy Griffith show in an episode The Bank Job ; and his last episode on the regular weekly had him joining the Marines, initiating his own comedy, Gomer Pyle, USMC. Finally in 1969 Jim Nabors realized a dream to have his own show. The Jim Nabors Hour was on CBS from 1969-71. It still had good ratings when it was dropped by CBS in a move they called the “rural purge.” He had a host of famous guests on that show including the Jackson Five and his good friend, Carol Burnett, who considered him her good-luck charm and had him on her show on opening night every season. He often mentioned Sylacauga as he worked in Los Vegas on a $40,000 week job. He later owned a Macadamia Nut Farm in Hawaii. Goll-lee and Shazam, this lanky boy from Sylacauga, Alabama, did pretty well for himself.
Chrissy Pursell Fleming was there at the Comer Museum for the birthday of Jim Nabors and told our visitors the story of how he introduced her Mom (Chris
Parker) and her Dad (Jim Pursell) and was best man at their wedding. Their friendship extended over a lifetime, and Jim came there to Pursell Farms
whenever time allowed. Beautiful balloons were released and rose into the blue sky. Happy Birthday was the song. Cousin Ray McDiarmid blew out the candles on the beautiful, tasty cake as James Thurston Nabors, AKA Gomer Pyle was celebrated. Happy Birthday, Jim Nabors. You made us laugh and blessed the world with your phenomenal voice, and it was not so long ago at that.