Dr. James A. "Jimmy" High retired from his orthodontics practice in 2009 after 34 years but now provides free dental care at the Hearts & Hands Clinic one day each week for people who cannot afford to pay. He has supported the clinic in other ways and also continues to teach and mentor future orthodontists.
High had tears welling up in his eyes as he approached the front of the ballroom, through applause, Monday to receive the 2017 Citizen of the Year Award from Statesboro's two Rotary Clubs. The Statesboro Rotary and Downtown Rotary held their annual joint lunchtime meeting for the purpose at Forest Heights Country Club.
When he received the plaque from his friend Jody Stubbs, High at first said, very quietly, "I'm speechless." Then he spoke up to say that people who volunteer along with him deserved the honor instead.
"I know any time I'm asked to do something, I'm generally surrounded by these great people," High said. "Many of you are here, and y'all are the ones that do all the work, and you should be the ones receiving of the recognition, not me, but thank you. I'm undeserving, but I'm humbled, and I appreciate it."
In his introduction, Stubbs had followed the traditional stratagem of making very general statements at first, trying to surprise even the person getting the award. Stubbs started out describing him as a man of intellect, handsome, athletic, who enjoys life, a family man with a distinguished professional career, a church leader, a servant of all.
Still water skis
But High said afterward that he didn't really know he was being described until Stubbs mentioned the 34 years in orthodontics practice. That came after the part about his being, or having been, a very good golfer and "still" an excellent water skier and sometimes an excellent snow skier. Stubbs said his friend was an exceptional field goal and extra-point kicker in high school and was named to the school's athletic hall of fame.
Now 70, High is "very blessed to be able to still water ski," he confirmed in an interview. His hall-of-fame high school is Screven County High in Sylvania. "Go Gamecocks!" he said. High went to Emory University in Atlanta for both his bachelor's degree and his doctorate in dentistry. He then practiced general dentistry in Millen before completing a two-year residency in orthodontics at the Medical College of Georgia, now a part of Augusta University, and starting his orthodontics practice in Statesboro.
He has served as a part-time faculty member, an assistant clinical professor, in MCG's orthodontics department for more than 30 years.
His students are dentists doing residencies in orthodontics. He sees them for an extended class and clinical session one day each month. First, he leads a treatment-planning session where they look at various cases. Next, they review the latest orthodontic literature for about an hour before spending about six hours actually treating patients, he said.
He figures he has been a teacher and mentor for about 100 orthodontists.
Hearts & Hands
Volunteering at the Hearts & Hands Clinic in Statesboro has given High something else to do since he sold his practice eight years ago.
"And since that time, I've been able to use the skills God gave me to help make a better life, better dental health for these people that come to Hearts & Hands," he said.
High has recruited other health professionals to contribute medical and dental work and "has been instrumental in securing much of the equipment" for the clinic, Stubbs said.
Dr. Jimmy High and his wife Pat have been married more than 48 years. They have two sons, James "Jay" High Jr., who is a patent attorney in San Francisco, and Andy High, who works in fraud detection in banking in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area.
Through those sons and their wives, the Highs have six grandchildren, and the couple loves to visit California and North Carolina to spend time with them.
"God has blessed me with six wonderful grandchildren, and I love them all," High said, tears welling up again, "and he's blessed me with a wonderful wife. Again, I live a blessed life. That's all I can say."
Concluding his introduction, Stubbs had added one more word to characterize High: disciple. He is an active member of Statesboro First United Methodist Church, where he teaches Sunday school. He also prepares and delivers meals and helps with the church's free soup kitchen.
For more than 20 years, he has been a member of The Gideons International, distributing Bibles locally and internationally and speaking in area churches. He has volunteered with the Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat program for almost 20 years in various roles, including lay leader.
"Jimmy High is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ," Stubbs said. "Jesus said, 'To whom much is given, much is required.' Jimmy knows that he has received much. Jimmy is fulfilling his obligation."
Atlanta businessman Ricky Steele, CEO of Steele Technology Partners, founder of several other companies and author of "The Heart of Networking," was guest speaker. He didn't talk about business but about his volunteer work as founder of Atlanta's Table, launched 30 years ago as part of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Enlisting fine-dining restaurants, corporate dining rooms and caterers to supply free meals for community kitchens and homeless shelters, it became a model for programs in other cities.
"That's really where our power comes as a community, when we serve one another," Steele said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.