Industry leader James Scarlett dies in plane crash
James Scarlett

James Scarlett, owner of Scarlett Inc., died in a plane crash returning from an industry event.

James Scarlett, owner of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Scarlett Inc. reportedly died in an April 12 plane crash as he was returning from the Wood Industry Conference in Florida. 

Additional details of the crash are pending, according to local officials. The Anderson County Sherriff's Office reported that the plane broke apart in flight and luggage and parts of the plane were scattered throughout the wooded area.  

The Federal Aviation Administration initially said two people were aboard, but Anderson County Emergency Management Agency Director Brice Kidwell told the OakRidger newspaper that they were able to confirm with McGhee Tyson Airport (Tennessee) officials that Scarlett was alone.

The Piper PA-32 Saratoga departed St. Petersburg, Florida, at 11:28 a.m. Friday and arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville at 3:31 p.m., according to the report. Scarlett refueled the plane and left McGhee Tyson en route to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids at 4:17 p.m.

Scarlett, who was recently named the chair of the executive committee of the new Wood Industry Association (WIA), took over for his father Jim Scarlett and, "as one of the principles of Scarlett, set out to build a team that is dedicated to providing new and creative solutions to customers while focusing on the overall customer experience," according to his brief biography on the Scarlett Inc. website.

The company released a statement on Facebook that read: "James was a dedicated father, entrepreneur, adventurer, mentor, and industry advocate, most recently serving as chair of the Wood Industry Association (the combined WMIA & WMMA). He was flying home from the WIC annual event in Florida when the accident occurred. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, co-workers and all who knew him."

In a blog post, Scarlett was described as a man who was “more than just a businessman; he was a pillar in the community. His passion for helping others and his boundless energy were truly inspiring. Many will miss him dearly.” 

In 2018, he was honored as a Woodworking Network Wood Industry 40 Under 40 competition that recognizes wood industry leaders who "demonstrate excellence in the categories of: productivity, social good, ingenuity, peer inspiration, product development, organizational leadership, or another facet of the wood industry." 

In acknowledging the award, Scarlett shared the honor with others. "This industry is full of incredibly great people many of whom have become great friends. Thank you! A big thanks also goes out to the entire team at Scarlett Inc. that allows me to keep pushing the envelope on a daily basis. You guys are Awesome!"


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).