In a small New England town 104 years ago, Pauline made her entrance into the world. After graduating from high school, she moved from home to Tennessee to attend Meharry Medical College, where she earned her degree in Nursing. Although Pauline’s dream was to return to Massachusetts to help start a hospital where all people of color were welcome, the path her life took was very different from the one she anticipated. In 1942, she met and married a very handsome, charismatic man from Guyana, Dr. W. F. Bernell James. Pauline later received her bachelor and master’s degrees from Tennessee State University, and also a Master’s in Psychiatric Health from Vanderbilt University, where she was a doctoral candidate in Higher Education. For many years, she and Dr. James worked tirelessly for the betterment of the Meharry community – he, as a surgeon and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and she, in various leadership positions, including OB-GYN Head Nurse, and Director of Nursing Service.
Pauline called Nashville home for over eight decades, and throughout her illustrious life, gave her very best to each endeavor. While raising her family, she held many positions in both the Nursing and Education career fields, and served as TSU’s chairperson of the Accreditation and Curriculum Committee, which lead to her being in integral part in the establishment of TSU’s first Nursing Program.
Pauline always instilled in her children the importance and satisfaction of offering their time and skills to volunteering, staying physically and mentally active, and being productive members of their community. Bernell, Jr. (now deceased) was a talented musician, and served his country during the Vietnam era; Paula was a Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools master teacher for 32 years, and is a noted vocalist; and Norma is a U. S. Army colonel (retired), and businesswoman. As an ardent advocate of healthy living, Pauline initiated and instructed a course for the American Red Cross entitled, “Staying Healthy After 50” and even did chair yoga at the YMCA until recently. She became involved in many professional and community-based organizations including the NAACP, Tennessee Board of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and the South Street Community Center. She also collaboratively published for the Journal of the National Medical Association. Pauline loved to organize and host events for the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, AARP, and the Meharry Alumni Association. She also devoted much of her energy to her beloved sororities, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc., an ethnically diverse professional nursing organization for registered and student nurses.
Aside from raising three children, Pauline, whose energy was boundless, gave her gifts of service and altruism to many of the organizations which she loved, such as the Linnaeus Garden Club, Iris Bridge Club, and Jack and Jill of America.
After the passing of Dr. James, Pauline later met and married another handsome, charismatic, exceptionally intelligent man, The Reverend James (Jim) Hall, an Episcopal priest, with whom she shared the next wonderful 29 years. During that time, she immersed herself in the planning and execution of committees and events for the Episcopal Diocese of Nashville, and charity events sponsored by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. She was an integral part of the reinstatement of the local chapter of The Order of the Daughters of the King at St. Mark’s. Pauline and Jim’s friendship and guidance with The Reverend Battle Beasley and so many others were treasured and are much appreciated by her family today.
Pauline cherished her grandchildren, her great grand, and all the friends and extended family who spent time in her home, experiencing her love, her compassion, and her delicious blueberry pie.
She witnessed the lives- and some deaths- of 13 presidents, two world wars, segregation, and sit-ins. She lived to see and celebrate our nation’s first African American President and the first Vice-President woman of color - something that would have been inconceivable when she was born 104 years ago. She made it through pandemics –including influenza and COVID; she witnessed global warming, and so many troubling AND miraculous events over the past century, yet – through it all – her tremendous faith in God and mankind never wavered. She often stated, “Life is to be lived, and for you to enjoy. Never forget to show gratitude for every experience you have, and to the people whom you love.” Pauline was with us for over a century, and during that time she left a legacy of love, devotion, faith and encouragement in the lives and hearts of those with whom she came in contact. In addition to her loving and devoted daughters, Pauline leaves grandchildren, William (Phyllis) Kelley, Michael Gill, Hadiyah Pauline Krueger; W. F. Bernell James, III, Sarah James, and great grand, Donovan Gill. She carried in her heart a special bond with her nephew, Jonathan Marable, who always offered encouraging words of love to his aunt and to the family. Pauline also leaves a lasting imprint in the hearts of a host of family and loving friends who have encouraged and supported her throughout her life.
Visitation with the family will be Saturday, December 9, 2023, from 10- 10:45 am. The Chi Eta Phi Sorority ceremony will begin at 10:45, with Celebration of Life service following at 11:00. These events will take place at Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church, 2334 Herman Street, Nashville TN, with The Reverend Dr. Paula Smith officiating. Private Committal Service will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.