Jimmy L. Mitchell

The following biographical obituary appeared in the April 2001 issue of  The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist (pp. 185-187).  It is reproduced here with permission of the Society for Industrial Psychology (SIOP).
 

Jimmy L. Mitchell, Ph.D., a prominent figure in work analysis and military training, died suddenly of a heart attack on the evening of December 19, 2000, at his home in Converse, Texas. A retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, he was buried with Full Military Honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. Jimmy is survived by his wife, Heidi J. Mitchell; their five children, Ian, Mark, Thane, Forrest, and Kirsten; their four grandchildren, Ardis, Benjamin, Gabriel, and Kelsey; and his brother, Henry. At the time of his death, Jimmy was Director and Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Job and Occupational Analysis (IJOA) in San Antonio, a not-for-profit corporation devoted to the study of the world of work, which he founded in 1993. Previously, he had served 27 years with the Air Force, followed by over 11 years with McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company (now McDonnell Aerospace), the last 3 of which coincided with his work at IJOA.

Born on December 29, 1935, in Wichita Falls, Texas, Jimmy earned his B.A. degree at Phillips University in 1957, his M.A. at Ohio State in 1966, and his Ph.D. at Purdue in 1978. He held the unique distinction of having earned his graduate degrees under two major figures in 20th Century job and occupational analysis, Carroll Shartle (at Ohio State) and Ernest McCormick (at Purdue). Jimmy began his Air Force career in 1957 as a psychiatric clinic technician at the USAF Hospital, Wright-Patterson AFB, followed by service as a security police officer with the Strategic Air Command and U.S. Air Forces Europe. He was subsequently assigned to the graduate program at Ohio State to pursue his masterís degree, after which he joined the Civilian Institutions Division of the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, as an administrator working with civilian university degree programs for Air Force officer and enlisted students. His ensuing years in the Air Force were devoted to test development and occupational analysis with the 3700th Occupational Measurement Squadron, Lackland AFB; the graduate program at Purdue, where he earned his doctorate; and the USAF Occupational Measurement Center, Randolph AFB, where he directed occupational survey studies as Chief of USAF Airmen Analysis. During his last 10 years in the Air Force, Jimmy also served as editor of Air Force Psychology News, a quarterly career development newsletter for behavioral scientists. Upon retiring from the Air Force in 1984, Jimmy continued his work in job and occupational analysis, first with McDonald Douglas and later with IJOA, focusing much of his effort on issues related to military training.

Jimmy had a strong commitment to his profession and a genuine altruistic interest in advancing the field of work analysis. An anonymous sage once noted that there are two ways of spreading light: to be a candle or to be the mirror that reflects it. In a sense, Jimmy was both. As a candle, he generated ideas and conducted research which he reported in journals, book chapters, technical reports, and numerous professional conferences, including the proceedings of the International Military Testing Association (IMTA), the International Occupational Analysts Workshops, the Applied Behavioral Sciences Symposia (previously the Psychology in the DoD Symposia), APA (Divisions 14 and 19), and SIOP. He was very active in these organizations and programs, providing leadership and vision through his service on various committees and boards, and received the 1994 Harry H. Greer Award for his outstanding contributions to IMTA. He developed the Professional and Managerial Position Questionnaire (with Ernest McCormick), authored two chapters in the Job Analysis Handbook for Business, Industry, and Government, and was considered to be the foremost authority on the history of job analysis in the military, having written both a book chapter and a journal article on that topic. As a mirror, Jimmy devoted much unselfish time and effort to showcasing and disseminating the work of others, particularly that of his younger colleagues. He played a unique and vital role as a facilitator and organizer in the field of work analysis, initiating and planning symposia, workshops, and other professional events, including a recent one-day symposium on the future of job analysis. He was the founding editor in chief of a new peer-reviewed electronic journal, Ergometrika (www.ergometrika.org), devoted to the analysis and study of human work. The journal had been one of his dreams for some years, and he posted its first issue just one week before his death. Over the years, Jimmy also played a significant role in promoting and spreading the use of the Air Force job-task inventory method throughout the military services and in the civilian sector as well. In addition, he found time to pass his knowledge of the field to the next generation, teaching occasional courses at the University of Texas at Austin and Saint Maryís University in San Antonio.

Jimmy enjoyed life and he loved people, in all their diversity. His many interests included archaeology, history, genealogy, and science fiction. He was a charter member of the Southern Texas Archaeological Association and edited the associationís journal, La Tierra, for 10 years. But perhaps his greatest legacy resides in all those whose careers he facilitated and lives he improved. Jimmy was the consummate mentor. As his many friends and beneficiaries will attest, he derived great satisfaction from helping others achieve their goals and realize their potential. Always looking for the best in people, he was quick to recognize their strengths but forgiving of their shortcomings. On top of it all, he was possessed of a warm and engaging sense of humor, an outgoing and approachable demeanor, a bright and optimistic spirit, and a generous nature. These qualities and his unpretentious humanity are what Jimmyís friends will miss the most.

In the words of Woodrow Wilson, "Do not forget, you are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." Jimmy never lost sight of his errand. He enriched all who knew him and the world at large. His time on earth, though all too short, was well spent. He will be sorely missed by a legion of friends and admirers, and his early departure leaves a void in the field of work analysis that no one else will likely fill.

Those wishing to memorialize Jimmy can contribute to the Jimmy L. Mitchell Archaeological Scholarship Fund by mailing checks payable to the Southern Texas Archaeological Association to: IJOA, Scholarship Fund, 10010 San Pedro, Suite 440, San Antonio, TX 78216.

                                                                                                              --Bill Cunningham*
*with invaluable help from Loretta Whitehead, Randy Agee, Winston Bennett, Roger Fites, and Mark Wilson