Jimmie Lee Stanley was all but born in the river, and he was surf fishing for black drum, flounder and speckled trout the weekend before he died.
He passed away in June in Beaufort, where he born, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was only 63.
Stanley could hunt and fish and shrimp with the best of them, and cook what he brought home — always the more the merrier.
He was a sought-after team member for sportfishing tournaments up and down the East Coast and into Costa Rica, with Bobby Cooler, Richard Pingree and Tom Garrett.
They say only Bobby Graves knew Beaufort’s rivers better than Stanley, who could run them day or night by compass and watch and a lifetime of observation.
But his biggest catch was an odd one. It’s one he loved with all his heart.
It happened when his 65-foot wooden hull shrimp boat, the Miss Sherri, was plucked from a sea of trawlers by Hollywood directors to be christened the Jenny in the blockbuster movie, “Forrest Gump.”
“We didn’t think it was a big deal,” said Stanley’s daughter, Shivhan Sims of Beaufort.
When the movie was filmed in Beaufort in 1993, she was a ninth-grader more interested in cheerleading.
Stanley’s son, Jimmy, said, “They told him it was a low-budget movie and there would be nothing to it.”
But it turned out to be one of America’s favorite movies of all time, a $55 million production by Paramount Pictures that grossed $667 million worldwide in its theatrical run. Tom Hanks won the 1995 Academy Award for best actor in his role as Forrest Gump. It also won best picture and best director.
Stanley’s boat was chosen because it was the right size, and it had a wide side deck for movie equipment.
And it had a father-son crew that could teach Hanks, Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan Taylor) and Mykelti Williamson (Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue) all the ways of shrimping.
The boat was a star for a couple of months, with Stanley getting $650 per day and Jimmy saying he was losing money because he wasn’t getting his 20 percent of the haul as the 16-year-old crewman for his dad.
She did well. She was rocked by people pulling cables and blown by a jet engine as she weathered “Hurricane Carmen” in the waters off of The Sands in Port Royal.
She was shown cruising into Village Creek as the only trawler to survive the storm.
She was crashed into a fake dock loaded with sticks of dynamite in the Coosa River. That episode knocked the propeller into the hull and she almost sank.
Hollywood liked the perch atop the rigging where Jimmy used to watch the wildlife when he was killing time during long drags for shrimp offshore. Directors ended up putting Lt. Dan up there, while Forrest Gump worked a fake wheel and the Stanleys were at the real wheel, hidden behind smoked glass.
The Stanleys learned the joy of the sixth take of dumping out a net full of shrimp that had not been iced and was red, limp and stinking.
“He loved every minute of it,” his daughter said. “He loved all the people. He loved all the cooking.”
Stanley cooked Frogmore Stew for the cast and crew a number of times, sometimes as much as 100 pounds of shrimp to go with the smoked sausage and corn on the cob that everyone loved.
Around town, Stanley was known as “Biggum” for good reason. He was born that way.
“They had to buy a stroller the first time they took him out,” Sims said.
He was a strapping football lineman at Beaufort High School, and got a scholarship to play baseball at Spartanburg Junior College. He was a switch-hitting force on mens’ softball teams, like The Rookie Shop or the Sea Island Bucs. He could hit a golf ball a ton, getting his love of sports from his parents, Warren and Nettie Stanley. He was chief of maintenance at Beaufort Memorial Hospital for 30 years, and she was a great bowler who shot three holes-in-one at Pleasant Point.
Stanley got busted one time for hunting deer illegally and part of his fine, his son said, was being made a game warden to help police others. He later worked 14 years in public works for Beaufort County.
“Me and him went fishing every weekend,” Jimmy Stanley said.
They caught everything, everywhere, from his 17-foot Sea Fox. And in a moving moment recently, they saw a buck standing in the marsh, silhouetted by the sunrise.
After the movie, the movie-star trawler built locally by Kerry Abraham was converted back to the Miss Sherri for a year or two. She was docked at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park for the first Beaufort Shrimp Festival.
But when Jimmy Stanley got a serious injury on board, it took a lot out of them. Stanley sold the boat, getting more for it than he owed.
It was bought by Planet Hollywood in Orlando, where she can still be seen today, once again the Jenny.
As Beaufort closes its 62nd annual Water Festival this weekend, the legend of Jimmie Stanley is looking more like a box of Forrest Gump’s chocolates.
“He was a very simple man,” said his daughter, Shivhan. “He loved to fish. He loved to hunt. He did not want to be inside.”