Cover photo for James "Jimmy" Weldon Tillman's Obituary
James "Jimmy" Weldon Tillman Profile Photo

James "Jimmy" Weldon Tillman

February 29, 1952 — February 12, 2023


James "Jimmy" Weldon Tillman


The Wilson community lost devoted teacher, coach, and school administrator Jimmy Tillman on Sunday. Tillman, age 70, had served as Wilson County Schools athletic director since 2008 and was still in the role at the time of his death. “We are devastated by the loss of Jimmy Tillman,” Wilson County Schools Superintendent Lane Mills said.  “While he served Wilson County Schools for 34 years as a teacher, coach, administrator, and our district’s athletic director, he was so much more than that. He was a friend to everyone who ever met him, and his kindness, leadership and wisdom will be missed.”


Tillman began his career with WCS as a health and physical education teacher and football coach at Lucama High School in the 1970s. After a school merger, he had the same roles at Beddingfield High School in 1978-79.


He then moved to SouthWest Edgecombe High School, where he was head football coach and athletic director until 1990, when he stepped away from coaching.


“Jimmy’s impact as a coach and leader was far-reaching, and he was well known and respected across the state,” Mills said. “He was a true champion for our students, staff, families and the entire Wilson community.”


In 1990, Tillman returned to WCS as assistant principal at Fike High School. From 1994 to 2005 when he retired, he served as principal at Lucama Elementary, Darden-Vick Middle and Fike High schools. He returned to work as educational consultant for principals and assistant principals for WCS before moving to the role of athletic director in 2008.


Tillman was a member of the halls of fame at Fike and SouthWest Edgecombe as well as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which listed him on its all-time Top 100 list of athletic administrators. Tillman was saluted as athletic director of the year in 2012 by the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association. He also was named Wilson County Schools Principal of the Year in 1999 and the NCHSAA Principal of the Year in 2005. Tillman served as chairman of the NCHSAA Nominating Committee three times and as a member of its Realignment Committee three times.


There have been many online tributes posted to social media accounts the last few days about the beloved friend and colleague. Dick’s Hot Dog Stand’s Facebook page noted the loss of the business’ “dear friend.”


“Jimmy Tillman was a Wilson treasure, and we can’t imagine there’s ever been a cross word hurled his way … not even after his teams would clobber their opponents. All those Saturdays the Wilson coaches would gather at our corner table to dissect the previous nights’ games and all we’d ever hear was laughter … even after one had beaten the other during one of the cross-county rival games!”


“As a coach and administrator, he was one of the best. As a person … he was one in a million. Coach … we’ll have one of your famous, custom-made chef salads this week and remember the good times. Rest easy our friend … may your memory be eternal.”


“Please keep his family, friends and our entire Wilson County Schools family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” Mills said.


Jimmy was an avid Duke fan, a member of Daniels Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, and a former member of the Wilson Breakfast Optimist Club.  He loved the beach, beach music, and loved his students, players, fellow coaches, and colleagues.  Jimmy’s motto was, “Students first.”


Tillman’s funeral is Saturday at 11 a.m. in the auditorium at Fike High School. Visitation follows in the gym. Burial will be private. Joyner’s Funeral Home is handling arrangements.


The service will be live streamed on Wilson County Schools Facebook page.


Jimmy is survived by his wife, Vickie Best Tillman; daughter, Emily Caroline Tillman; sisters, Jean Tillman Whetsell and Robin Tillman Whitman and her husband, Larry; and Fur Baby, Duke.


Jimmy is preceded in death by his parents, James Weldon Tillman and Helen Malpass Tillman; brothers, Jeff Tillman and Maxton Tillman


In lieu of flowers, donations may be directed to:


Jimmy Tillman Scholarship Fund

C/O Wilson Education Partnership

113 East Nash Street, Suite 316

Wilson, NC  27896


Condolences directed to Joyner’s Funeral Home and Crematory at

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Past Services

Funeral Service

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Fike High School Auditorium

500 Harrison Dr N, Wilson, NC 27893


Click to watch

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Saturday, February 18, 2023

Fike High School Gymnasium

500 Harrison Dr N, Wilson, NC 27893

Following Funeral Service

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