Aug. 22, 1936 – July 29, 2015
A memorial service for James Ross Billings will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 28, 2016, at the First Presbyterian Church in Las Animas. A joint reception honoring Jim Billings and Bob Tigner will follow this memorial service in the Parish Hall.
James Ross "Buff" Billings, grandson of Bent County homesteaders James and Ella Billings, passed away Wednesday, July 29, 2015, at his home in Tucson, Arizona, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was born Aug. 22, 1936, in Clarksburg, California, to Emma Kerr Billings and Herbert Ross Billings.
Jim moved to Las Animas in 1945, where he spent the remainder of his childhood. Here, he developed the geological interests that he pursued throughout his life while forging lifelong friendships. In high school he played sports, performed in theatrical plays and participated in several clubs. He collected unusual pets such as eagles, hawks, raccoons, bull snakes, skunks, and even a badger, which he trained to walk with a leash. In 1955, he joined the Navy, serving as a sonar technician in the Pacific for four years. While stationed in California, he began his 20-year career as a bull rider. He was so dedicated to his sport, he often competed with broken ribs, a broken leg or arm. Severely injured after being thrown and gored by a bull, he spent six months in a hospital bed having his face rebuilt and letting his body heal.
During the '60s and between rodeo events, he acted in several movies, including "McKenna's Gold" and "Ride in the Whirlwind," written and directed by a young Jack Nicholson. During Jim's rodeo career, he served as a judge and field director for the International Rodeo Association.
After pursuing a college degree, he was appointed as archeological field supervisor for Pima Community College for the next 20 years. While teaching there, he started an archaeological consulting company, supervising digs in several states and countries. After retiring from the college at age 60, he established B.C. Lithics and Ivory. Dealing in raw gems, minerals, ivory and other artifacts, he earned his reputation as an international expert in dinosaur bone. Billings was predeceased by his parents, Herbert and Emma Billings, an uncle, Lawrence Billings, brother, Clark H. Billings, graduate of BCHS, Class of 1953, a son, Ian Billings and esteemed friend, Jean Whipple.
He is survived by his sister, Nancy Billings Gerlock of Pueblo, Colorado, daughter, Dorinda Billings, of Arizona, four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren, nieces Lisa Gerlock Genty of Denver, Tamara Guerrero of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Christine Billings of Burke, Virginia, Trang Billings Estagassy of Paris France, and nephew John Gerlock, who passed away March 30, 2016, an adopted son, Jim Mattioda, and devoted friend Arlene Watkins, both of Tucson, in addition to his many lifetime friends.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Pioneer Historical Society of Bent County.