A 1953 graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, Tatum was president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity as well as a member of Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma engineering honoraries. While pursuing a law degree at the University of Alabama, he was president of the Law School Student Body and a member of Sigma Delta Kappa legal fraternity. Tatum began his career as a test engineer for Rohm & Haas Company in Huntsville and later served in the Army Corps of Engineers as a research engineer at Redstone Arsenal. He later became a senior partner in the Huntsville firm of Berry, Ables, Tatum, Little and Baxter.
A major portion of his life’s work was devoted to making Auburn and the state of Alabama a better place to live and to learn through his contributions as a civic leader and a supporter of higher education. Tatum served sixteen years as a member of Auburn’s Board of Trustees. His service to the Board was characterized by a selfless investment of time and resources an unwavering support for the institution. He was instrumental in helping foster Auburn’s rise to national prominence.
In 2000, Auburn University awarded Tatum posthumously one of the highest honors that may be bestowed by the institution upon an individual, the honorary Doctor of Laws degree. It was just the 143rd honorary degree in Auburn’s history.
Throughout his life, Tatum took great pride in supporting Auburn University, its athletic teams and programs. His commitment and dedication to Auburn’s programs was unparalleled.
“Auburn Plainsman”, Auburn, Alabama, 9/30/99
“James T. Tatum Strength and Conditioning Center”, Naming Ceremony program, Auburn, Alabama