LEGENDARY CHATTANOOGA BUSINESSMAN DIES AT 81
James “Jimmy” Jernigan died Saturday, May 21, 2022 from complications following a cardiac procedure at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. He was 81 years old.
Many folks in Chattanooga, TN knew him as Mr. Jernigan the owner of Jernigan’s Furniture, at one time the largest furniture store in the state. Those who knew him best called him Jimmy.
His life began in 1941 the only son of Albert and Mary Jernigan. A high-spirited lad, James Albert Jernigan graduated from Central High School and took over the small family furniture business. Jimmy was one of the most creative, energetic, and brilliant businessmen around. He loved to work and eventually his event-based way of doing business changed the face of advertising in Chattanooga for years to come.
Jimmy also mentored several young business entrepreneurs over the years. Each became quite successful in their own endeavors.
In his early years besides selling furniture, he liked to race cars… until his young wife Carolyn Houston gave birth to their first child Jinger. He traded his dragster for a beautiful daughter and concentrated his focus to becoming the best in the furniture business. Jernigan’s Furniture and later Factory Direct Furniture became staples in the home décor diet for families across the tri state area. A lot of people laid down on, sat to eat at or read the paper on a piece of furniture from Jernigan’s. And who could forget that cringeworthy voice on their TV spots. No that was not Jimmy.
Tragically Jimmy lost both his youngest daughter Staci at 16 years old and later his wife of 35 years in separate automobile accidents.
In 1996 he married Sue Foreman. Together they rebranded Jernigan’s furniture store to Factory Direct Furniture. As husband and wife and best friends, they spent many happy years together, splitting their time between Hobe Sound, Florida and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Besides his love for his work, Jimmy was an avid golfer and was a member at the Medalist Country Club in Hobe Sound, The Chattanooga Golf and Country Club and until recently a member of The Honors.
Jimmy is survived by his wife Sue, her daughter June Jenness, his daughter Jinger Jernigan Wadel and her husband Michael, 4 grandchildren, Houston (Sadie), Trent (Lucy), Joshua (Amanda), and Lyndsi (Matt), 4 great grandchildren, Baleigh, Avery, Lily and Bonnie. He is also survived by a sister Pat Leiderman and nephew Danny Casteen.
Visitation will be held at White Oak United Methodist Church, 2232 Lyndon Ave., at the corner of Memorial Drive and Lyndon Ave. in Red Bank, Thursday June 2, from 2:30 p.m. with the memorial service immediately following at 4 p.m. The service will be livestreamed on Facebook www.facebook.com/whiteoakumcchattanooga
or on Zoom
Meeting ID: 423 877 6042 Passcode: 6042
Many people do not know that Jimmy Jernigan was a very generous man, preferring to keep his gifts and philanthropy out of the public eye. And Jimmy himself the recipient of the generous gift of a double lung transplant in 2010.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made “In memory of Jimmy Jernigan to Mayo Clinic for Lung Transplantation Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Florida honoring Dr. Francisco Alvarez”. Donations can be made by phone, mail or online…
Phone – 855-852-8129 or
Mail – Mayo Clinic Department of Development, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905 or
Online – https://philanthropy.mayoclinic.org/donatemc