About Jim Oliver
In Loving Memory
Jim Oliver (August 4, 1937 – May 16, 2007)
Mr. Jim Oliver, a Monteagle mountain fixture and entrepreneur for many years, died unexpectedly on May 16, 2007 at his residence in Monteagle, Tennessee.
Jim was easy going and friendly, especially to young people. When his younger daughter, Nancy, and a few of us got a band together when she was in high school, he let us play for cookouts and pig roasts in back of the hotel. We had a blast. He supported our crazy dreams, especially those of his daughter. We will miss you, Jim. ~ Dave D.
Jim was born August 4, 1937, to Irene Allie Phipps Oliver and Robert Cheatum Oliver in Pelham, Tenn; his childhood days to early teens were spent in Paynes Cove, Tenn. He is survived by two sisters, Geneva Grace Patterson (Dillon) of Pelham, Tenn., and Joann Pace of Monteagle, Tenn.; two brothers, Robert Melvin (Gladys) Oliver of Monteagle, Tenn., and Bernard Cheatum (Lois) Oliver of Murfreesboro, Tenn., life partner, Gwendolyn Gipson of Monteagle, Tenn., three children, James David (Betty) Oliver of Monteagle, Tenn., Betsy Jane Oliver of Monteagle, Tenn., Nancy Lea Oliver of Monteagle, Tenn., former wife, Bettye Janice Ross Oliver of Monteagle, Tenn., two step-children, Kimberly Suzanne Gipson of Cartersville, Georgia, Beau Gary Gipson of Monteagle, Tenn., step-granddaughter Shana Leigh True (JD & Betty Oliver) of Chattanooga, TN, and beloved pet, Gizzie.
He was founder and president of Jim Oliver’s Smoke House Restaurant, Lodge & Trading Post located in Monteagle, Tenn. In 1960, he and his wife, Janice relocated from Cleveland, Ohio after living there 10 years, to rent an existing business, The Beehive Drive-In. In 1963, Jim and his brother, Melvin pooled their resources and purchased the original Monteagle Diner at auction from Monteagle resident, Herman Sanders. After a successful ten year venture, in 1973, Jim and Melvin parted amicably, with Jim selling his interest of The Monteagle Diner to Melvin. By November of 1975, Jim completed construction on The Smoke House and opened for business. Utilizing his mother’s recipes, Jim’s country-themed restaurant soon became a regional favorite, and received nationwide recognition as one of the top 500 eating establishments in 1988 and again in 1989. A series of renovations followed, including the construction of 5,500 sq. ft. of meeting facilities, 85 lodging rooms and 19 cabins, campground, an on-site wine and spirits shop, wedding chapel, and real estate office. In 1998, The Smoke House Lodge was accepted as a member of the National Best Western franchise.
In addition to owning and operating a successful family-owned business, Jim devoted much of his time to helping others and in promoting the Mountain’s natural assets. Beginning in 1978, Jim, along with close friend and retired General Motors National Management Consultant, Hank Landers, spear-headed the state’s purchase of the then defunct Mountain Golf and Recreation Center, to be incorporated into the state parks system as the South Cumberland Recreation Area Visitor’s & Cultural Interpretation Center. Together, they were instrumental in saving Grundy Lakes and Coke Ovens from irreparable damage as a dumping site while restoring the area’s historic and environmental integrity.
Jim and Hank helped orchestrate the implementation of several civic programs for the people of Grundy County, including the Toddler’s Club, Exceptional Citizens Center, Mountain Medical Center and the Mountain Community Services Corporation. They also worked tirelessly to secure Social Security and veterans’ benefits for numerous individuals and sponsored several people in drug rehabilitation programs. A celebration of his life was held on Saturday, May 19, at 2:00 p.m. on the grounds of the Smoke House property. Graveside services were held for family only at Monteagle Cemetery. A reception for family and friends followed in the restaurant. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the American Diabetes Association, the Appalachian Women’s Guild, 492 Main St., Tracy City, Tenn., 37387, Mid-Cumberland Mountain Ministry, P.O. Box 706, Monteagle, Tenn., 37356 or charity of choice. Arrangements were made by Foster & Lay Funeral Home of Tracy City.