James “Bucky” Wolford

UT Chattanooga, ’69

“We were taught the importance of a team. We won as a team. We lost as a team.”

The lessons James “Bucky” Wolford learned while playing football at UT Chattanooga proved an integral part of his life after he graduated in 1969.

He carried the philosophy of team first when he started his career in retail development as part of the Arlen Shopping Center Group in 1970. Eight years later, he teamed up with four others to create CBL and Associates, which grew to be one of the largest shopping center developers in the United States. As of May 2017,
it was affiliated with 125 properties in 27 states.

Wolford retired from CBL in 1997 and, in 1999, formed Wolford Development, his own retail shopping center company.

He grew up just north of Birmingham, Alabama, and was captain of his high-school football team and president of the school’s National Honor Society. Upon graduation, he came to UTC on a football scholarship.

He did more than find lessons on the football field. He also found love.

One day, waiting for the marching band to finish practice so the football team could take the field, he noticed Diane Kilgore, one of the majorettes.

“They were marching downfield, and she was up in front with her baton, twirling, and that was the most beautiful lady I’d ever seen in my life,” he says. “So I found a way to be introduced to her. And, two weeks later, I had my first date with her… and I can tell you it was on Nov. 11, 1967.”

Bucky and Diane Wolford married in 1969 and have two sons. Bucky Wolford died Sept. 1, 2017, at the age of 70.

Part of the Tennessee Alumnus’ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.