Dr. James Swift Chism

April 7, 1956 ~ July 22, 2022 (age 66)


Dr. James Swift Chism, a.k.a. "Doc" or "Swift", depending on how one knew him, departed this life on July 22, 2022. He was born on April 7, 1956 in Tompkinsville, KY.

As a teen, he was an Eagle Scout and an athlete, participating in football, basketball, and track, and later volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps. It was in a middle school classroom in Tompkinsville that he acquired the nickname Swift during a bout of youthful shenanigans, and the name stuck.

During childhood summers, James helped his uncle, Levi Bailey, mow local cemeteries, and while they worked, Levi would tell him stories of those whose graves they were tending. This, along with stories passed down from his father and other elders in the community, inspired James to become an avid collector of family lore, genealogy, and local history.

After completing his service with the Marine Corps, James began attending college and soon met his sister's college roommate, Marcia. The two were smitten. James was, by that time, planning to attend vet school at the end of his undergraduate degree, and the couple decided that they would be married after he finished his D.V.M. degree. They later pushed this deadline back to after his B.S. degree, and, in the end, the two married after their freshman year, eager to begin their life together.

During the first several years of marriage, James and Marcia welcomed two daughters, Amanda Jean and Hannah Marie. The family had moved back to Kentucky after his graduation from Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987, and in December 1989, James and Marcia purchased a practice in Rockcastle County, near Marcia's home community of Ottawa.

What followed was a 32 year labor of love for the people and animals of the area. "Doc" worked tirelessly, with his wife and often children at his side, to serve the needs of the community he quickly knew as well as his own. His love for genealogy grew to include the family lineages of Rockcastle County, and clients were often astounded to find he knew their family connections as well as they did. He genuinely cared about his clients, and no visit to the clinic was complete without a check-in about any recently ailing relatives or friends.

He answered calls at all hours of the day and night, often making middle-of-the-night farm calls or leaving holidays mid-meal to see a patient in need. Even in recent weeks, when he was ailing badly himself, one could find him operating on injured, abandoned kittens to alleviate their suffering. He did not fail to step in for his patients if it was within his power and ability, often regardless of the personal cost.

In addition to his service as a United States Marine, James's career was his proudest achievement. His goal in recent years was to work until age 81, at which point he would be able to say he had a fifty year career. Sadly for us all, he was unable to reach that goal, but no one could reproach his service to the community in the thirty-five years he was in practice.

In his limited time away from work, James could often be found enjoying Scottish Highland Games and Festivals with his family, visiting relatives, researching genealogy, or riding horses with members of his Rockcastle Veterinary Clinic family. He counted many of his employees among his closest friends.

Doc, Swift, James, Jim, Dad, Uncle or Cousin- whatever appellation he carried from each individual who is mourning him now, he leaves behind an example of dedication and caring rarely matched and a void impossible to fill.

He is survived by his wife of almost 42 years, Marcia Jayne Brown Chism; two daughters, Amanda Jean Chism Briggs (Alan) and Hannah Marie Chism; two siblings, Timothy Kirkpatrick Chism, Jr. (Dorothea), and Katherine Chism Gordon; father-in-law Harold Brown, three sisters-in-law, Rita Brown Sampson (Mark), Katherine Brown Hysinger (Rick), Teresa Brown (Craig Wagers); a brother-in-law, Hershel Braley; ten nieces and nephews; and a host of great nieces, nephews and cousins. James was preceded in death by his parents, Timothy Kirkpatrick Chism and Jean Swift Chism; mother-in-law Roberta Robbins Brown, brother-in-law, William Gordon, and sister-in-law, Wanda Brown Braley.

Local funeral services for Dr. Chism will be conducted Wednesday, July 27 at 1:00 PM (EST) at the Dowell & Martin Funeral Home Chapel by Bros. Calvin Johnson and John McPheron. Local services will be live-streamed and may be viewed at The family will receive friends at Dowell & Martin Funeral Home from 5:00 to 9:00 PM (EST) Tuesday and after 11:00 AM (EST) Wednesday.

Graveside services will be conducted Thursday, July 28 at 1:00 PM (CST) in the Evans Oak Hill Cemetery in Tompkinsville. Visitation will precede the graveside services at 11:00 AM (CST) at Yokley-Trible Funeral Home.

Pallbearers will be: Tim Chism, David Gordon, Matthew Hayes, Richard Hysinger, Jeremiah Rinker, and Matt Tovar. Honorary pallbearers will be: Mark Bartley, Tom Carter, Tony Carter, James Emberton, Sid Hale, Beverly McClendon, and Jim Proffitt.

The family requests masks be worn for all services, and that donations in lieu of flowers be made to: Bluegrass Greyhound Adoption, 1229 Melody Ln., Lexington, KY 40514, or to Tompkinsville United Methodist Church, 116 E. 3rd St., Tompkinsville, KY 42167.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. James Swift Chism, please visit our floral store.

Memorial Tree
A Memorial Tree was planted for Dr. James

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July 28, 2022

11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Yokley-Trible Funeral Home
510 West 4th St
Tompkinsville, KY 42167

Graveside Service
July 28, 2022

1:00 PM
Evans Oak Hill Cemetery
Tompkinsville, KY 42167

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