James H. Shepherd Jr.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer
James H. Shepherd, Jr., is the chairman of the Board of Directors and chief strategy officer for Shepherd Center. He co-founded Shepherd Center in 1975 with his parents, Alana Shepherd and the late Harold Shepherd, and David Apple, M.D., the hospital’s first medical director.
James and the co-founders have built a facility that has garnered international recognition for the treatment of spinal cord injury, brain injury and multiple sclerosis. Also, Shepherd Center has also become a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities.
A native of Atlanta, James graduated from the Westminster Schools and then received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Georgia in 1973. It was his near-fatal bodysurfing accident in Brazil that year that led to the founding of Shepherd Center in 1975. After six months of intensive rehabilitation in Denver, Colorado, James regained the ability to walk with a cane and leg brace. When the Shepherd family returned home to Atlanta, they were frustrated with the lack of rehabilitation center options in the Southeast. With his parents’ enthusiastic support, James and his family founded Shepherd Center in 1975 as a six-bed unit, and almost immediately, there was a waiting list.
Throughout Shepherd Center’s history, James has worked to improve accessibility and opportunity for people with disabilities. He regularly communicates with community leaders, legislators and the news media to increase public awareness. And he tours groups through Shepherd Center, speaks to community organizations, and makes advocates and donors of the many people he reaches.
On both the state and national level, James has made a tremendous commitment and contribution to providing exceptional healthcare for people with spinal cord and/or brain injuries. He exemplifies how dedication and determination can bring change to society. His contributions have been recognized with numerous awards, including a national award for distinguished public service from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and an honorary doctorate from the University of Georgia – both of which also recognized his parents’ contributions.
James has actively served on numerous boards and committees to further the education and research to benefit people with disabilities. He has served as director of the National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation, on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Rehabilitation Technology, the Governor’s Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Trust Fund Authority and as a board member of Initiative 2000 (a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act). James also served on the Steering Committee for the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, which led the Interfaith Conference on Disability Awareness. He is an active volunteer in the community, having volunteered on the accessibility advisory committees of MARTA, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Georgia World Congress Center and the Georgia Dome.