Rear Admiral Jimmy W. Taylor USN (Ret.) Recipient of 2018 Fred Russell Distinguished American Award
Rear Admiral Jimmy W. Taylor USN (Ret) is this year's recipient of the Fred Russell Distinguished American Award, the highest honor presented by our chapter each year.
This award recognizes a local supporter of American values and the Midstate community. First awarded in 1969, it was named in honor of the former sports editor for Nashville's afternoon newspaper, the Nashville Banner, which was published from 1876-1998. A founding member of this chapter, Russell was himself once awarded the Distinguished American Award by the National Football Foundation at its national headquarters.
Taylor attended the University of Tennessee and Middle Tennessee State College before graduating from San Diego State University, in addition to becoming a licensed pilot and certified flight instructor at MTSU's flight school. He earned his Naval Aviator wings in September 1958, marking the beginning of a long and distinguished career spent primarily in F-8 and F-14 fighters aboard Navy aircraft carriers.
He completed around 200 combat missions across five carrier combat cruises and served in various command and staff roles, including Chief of Naval Air Training which is responsible for flight training across the US Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. Other accomplishments include Grumman's “Topcat” award and other recognition for his skills as a demo pilot and commanding the first F-14 squadron to make a fleet deployment. In 1975 he participated in Operation Frequent Wind, aiding the evacuation of Saigon.
He served with the Operational Test and Evaluation Force, the Education and Training Command, and the Air Training Command, and in the last decade of his naval career also served as: Chief of Naval Air Training; Vice Commander, Naval Education and Training Command; Head, Naval Aviation Plans and Programs at the Pentagon; Commander, Training Air Wing Two; and Chief of Staff, Fighter and Airborne Early Warning Wing, Pacific.
After retiring from active duty in 1991, he accepted the position of Vice President and Vice Chairman of Armed Services for the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce and was also responsible for implementing the Armed Services Program of Action and working with the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense and Congressional delegations.
The knowledge and experience gained from his training and service has even made it to the big screen in the form of an advisory role during production of the 1986 film Top Gun. His suggestions helped reshape the flight action sequences into the critically-praised scenes the movie is remembered for today.
"It it flies, I'll take the opportunity to still fly it, including hot air balloons at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival" Taylor recently said.
Among his current volunteer efforts is the Capt. Jeff Kuss Memorial in Smyrna. Capt. Kuss was the U.S. Marine pilot who was killed in the Blue Angels jet crash last June.
"I'm honored to serve on a very active and hard working committee headed by Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed," Taylor said. "We've been raising money and securing an aircraft for the memorial and we're preparing to pour concrete to mount the F-18."
Admiral Taylor has long been a football fan. He grew up a fan of Vanderbilt football during the Bill Wade era when Wade was SEC Player of the Year in 1951. He played wide receiver on the Murfreesboro Central team that was the top-rated team in the state in 1950 according to the Litkenhous Rating, one of the rating systems that ranked teams prior to the playing of state championships. Taylor attended the University of Tennessee during the Johnny Majors - Doug Atkins era and continues to follow football today, attending many Titans games with family members.
Receiving this award is extra special for Taylor as one of Mr. Russell's daughters, Lee Brown, is a long-time friend and plans to be in attendance for the banquet. Lee was married to Navy Captain Jim Jones who was a commander of one of Admiral Taylor's training wings in Pensacola. FL
Taylor lives in Smyrna with his wife Annette. In addition to his efforts on the Capt. Kuss Memorial, he serves on the boards and committees of nonprofit organizations like Meals on Wheels. and Habitat for Humanity.