PODCAST: Alabama mother still searching for son 23 years later

Tillis James is still looking for her son George James. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 1:08 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2023 at 9:12 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA)- George James’ early years weren’t easy. Even his mother, Tillis James, will tell you.

During her interview, Tillis James described some rough patches her son experienced during his childhood. For instance, Tillis James said George joined a gang as a teenager.

“He was about 16 when he got into them, the Bloods, and about a year later, three or four of them went to prison, and George stayed there for three years,” Tillis James recalled.

At just 20 years old, George James was set to be released from prison. Right before his release, his mother said he was brutally attacked.

“Right before he was set to get out, I mean right before, he was jumped by a myriad of people,” Tillis James said. “He was beaten badly, and some other things were done to him. The warden called me and told me about the incident. I finally got George on the phone, and he said, ‘Momma, I’m going to heal, I’m going to be okay, I’m going to get out, I’ve gotten out.”

Once out of jail, George James returned to his family’s home in Millbrook and started working as a construction worker. It was June 1998.

“We had built a house there in Millbrook, and George went to work building a federal courthouse actually as a construction worker,” Tillis James said, “he was taking his life on a new journey. He wanted a good life”.

But that new journey was tainted by his past.

“The gang people he had been involved with prior to prison kept buzzing the house, driving back and forth, calling, and making threats,” she said. “He was worried, and he said, ‘This is dangerous for y’all.’”

While concerned, she later learned that George James was planning to move. Tillis James said she believed he was heading to Florida the day he went missing. He wanted a new life in a new state. The last time she saw him was in Nov. 1998.

“He’d bought clothing, and he was ready to go,” she said, “but his engine blew, which is odd because he’d just bought that car. We know it happened at the second Evergreen exit. We know that he went up to a pay phone, and I believe he called his friend, who wasn’t his friend anymore,” Tillis James said.

A witness, a store clerk, saw George James use the phone and take off. Investigators and his mother want to know what happened next.

“There’s been so much left out in the investigation—so many people with a clear motive. The gang people and more; I just want to know what happened,” she said.

Central Alabama CrimeStoppers offers $5,000 in reward money for more information on George James’ whereabouts. Tillis James has since relocated and regularly makes trips to Montgomery and surrounding areas. She’s been working with the Montgomery District Attorney’s Office and more.

She said her husband passed award recently from cancer. She said right before he died; he told her never to stop looking for their son. He said to her that he believed George was deceased.

“He said, ‘I’m going to see him, but you keep searching for our son here,’” she said.

Tillis James said she is on a mission to do just that, and she worries that her son is being judged for his past.

“He was a thug. He was a troublemaker; I’ve heard it said to me before. But do you give up? Do you just stop looking? He’s your child. You don’t care what he’s done. You want answers,” she said.

His mother vows to continue to look for answers. She’s praying that she will see George again, and if he is deceased, she hopes to give him the burial and dignity he deserves.

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