Thomas Edward “Tommy E” Fortson was born on April 27, 1959, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was the third of five children born to the late Walter and Irma (Williams) Fortson. He departed this life on October 18, 2021, at his home.
He was preceded in death by Michelle A. B. Fortson; parents, Walter T. Sr. and Irma M. (Williams) Fortson; godparents, James (Dimple) Young; paternal grandparents, John L. (Sallie M.) Fortson, maternal grandmother, Virginia Porter; brother Ronald “Puddin” Bumcum; great aunt, Wilhelmina Porter, and close friends Herman (Jackie) Bradley and Dennis Garmon.
Tommy was a direct, focused, and reasonable man, husband, father, grandfather, and comrade-in-arms. He enjoyed the treasured quality time spent with his fiancée, children, grandchildren, close friends, and those in need. He loved to travel, fellowship, and explore new places and relationships. Tommy impacted and touched the lives of all whom he had the pleasure of knowing, serving with him, and simply sharing a meal or laughing with him. He never met a stranger, only friends. He enjoyed Alabama and Redskin Football as well as watching the NBA.
Tommy was of the Baptist faith. He graduated from Chattanooga High School in the Class of 1977. On May 10, 1978, he entered the U.S. Army and received Basic Combat and Advance Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Gordon, Georgia. After completion, he was awarded the military occupational specialty (MOS) of 36C-Telephone Operator/ Installer and Lineman. On March 25, 1982, Tommy again attended AIT and changed his MOS to 27E- TOW/Dragon Missile Repair Supervisor at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
He retired from the U.S. Army after 26 and a half years of unblemished service as a First Sergeant and logistician. After retirement, he was employed by FedEx as a delivery driver and The Chattanooga Police Department as a communications officer for a brief time before deciding to fully retire at the age of 50. He believed a mind was a terrible thing to waste and graduated from the Grace School of Ministry receiving his Chaplain license in October 2019.
Tommy passes the baton and cherished memories to his fiancée, Valery (Willis) McConnel, son, Isaiah T. Fortson, daughter, Nichelle N. Fortson; and grandchildren, Malik McGee, Rico, Maia, Rashead, and Riley Sheppard; brothers, Horry (Merlita) Bumcum, Willis (Chandelier) Smartt, III, Walter T. Fortson Jr. and Timothy Fortson; sisters, Beverly McClendon, Minister Sharon M. Fortson, El Cajon, California, Angela (James) Cowan, Sonya (Jordan) Slay, Smyrna, Tennessee; aunts, Mrs. Sarah (Tommy) Cook, Reverend Mary F. Benson, and Jacqueline F. Cooper, Atlanta, GA; special nephews, William, Kayce and Dion Bumcum; special nieces, Tomeka (Terrance, Sr.) McClarty and Shanika Tucker; devoted cousins, Mrs. Alice Watson and Mrs. Wally Fortson; Lifelong Friends Ronald Dodds Jr. and Jeffery (Gwen) Smith, Extremely close friends: Daziel (Diane) Carlton, Dexter Hornsby, Kim Henderson, Mark (Joyce) Johnson, and Jeffery (Chris) Bell. A host of loving relatives and friends.
Tommy's military service allowed for his travels to Kaiserslautern, West Germany; Bad Kreuznach, West Germany; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Bliss, Tx.; Columbia, S.C.; Camp Casey, South Korea, and Delta Redstone Arsenal, Al.
His awards and decorations included the (2) Meritorious Service Medal, (3) Army Commendation Medal; (5) Army Achievement medal; (8) Good Conduct Medals; The National Defense Service Medal; (4) Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons; The Army Service Ribbon, The Overseas Service Ribbon (with the numeral 4); The Meritorious Unit Commendation; the Gold Army Recruiter Badge with three stars.
1SG Fortson served in numerous technical positions during his service as a Wire Systems Installer, Senior Wiremen, Switchboard Operator/ Supervisor, TOW/Dragon Repairman/Supervisor, Missile Maintenance Supervisor, Shop Foreman, Section Chief, Quality Assurance/Quality Control Sergeant, Maintenance Control Sergeant, Repair Control Sergeant, Division Materiel Missile Maintenance Manager, DISCOM Operations Sergeant, Battle NCO and Plans / Operation NCOIC, Missile Maintenance Training Department Chief Instructor/Writer and Recruiter. His leadership positions include Team Chief, Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, and First Sergeant of Delta Company 832nd Ordinance Battalion.
1SG Fortson's Military Education includes Primary Leader Development Course, Basic Non-commissioned Officer Course, Advanced Non- Commissioned Officer Course, First Sergeant's Course, Army Recruiter Course, Instructor Training Course, Master Fitness Course, and Drug and Alcohol Unit Coordinator Course.
His tenure in the U.S. Army came to a close on November 30, 2004, with retirement after 26 and a half years of service.
Public viewing will be held from 9-11:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 1, at the funeral home, followed by a funeral service at noon in the chapel.
Interment will be in Chattanooga National Cemetery. Gate time is 2 p.m.
Arrangements are by John P. Franklin Funeral Home, 1101 Dodds Ave., 423 622-9995.