James Rex Allen Jr., age 91, passed away at his home in Mars Hill, surrounded by his family on Sunday June 9, 2019.
James was born on December 13, 1927 in Mars Hill to Rex and Mary (Willis) Allen. He attended grade and high school in the Mars Hill school system.
Directly out of high school, in the midst of World War II, he enlisted in the Navy becoming a hospital apprentice first class at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital. While in the Navy, he met his future wife, Christie Ann Smith, an ensign in the Navy Nurse Corps.
Following the war, he returned to Mars Hill, attended Mars Hill College and married Christie in 1948. He attended the University of Tennessee – Knoxville graduating with a BS and MS degrees in 1951. Their first son, the late James Rex Allen III, was born there in 1950. He then attended the University of Georgia - Athens where he received the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1955.
Following graduation, he took a research position with Central Soya in Decatur, Indiana. While in Indiana, their second son, Christopher William and third son Oliver Eric were born. James returned to school pursuing a PhD in Pathology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where he graduated in 1962. He took a faculty position at the University of Wisconsin Medical School ultimately becoming a full professor in the department of pathology and department of food microbiology and toxicology. He was also a senior scientist at the Primate Research Center. Dr. Allen’s groundbreaking research was instrumental in gaining an understanding of the cancer causing potential of a variety of dioxin compounds including those present in the widely publicized herbicide Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War. Their fourth son, Jonathan Rob was born while there in 1963.
He retired from the university in 1980 and returned to Mars Hill where he established a veterinary practice and served the community for over 30 years. Late in life, he cared for his wife after she became bed ridden.
He always enjoyed working outside whether growing tobacco or clearing woods. He was a member of the Gabriel’s Creek Baptist Church. He is survived by his sons Chris of Lodi, Wisconsin, Oliver of Mars Hill and Jonathan of Weaverville as well as his sister Judy Grigg of Mars Hill and five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Dr. Allen is missed by all that knew him.