Funeral services were held on December 28 for former Savannah State basketball coach Jimmie Lee Westley, Sr. Family, friends and former players gathered at First African Baptist Church of East Savannah to celebrate the life of Westley.
The Tallahassee, Florida native died on December 13 at age 79.
Some remembered Westley for his golf game while others knew him for basketball. But all that spoke during the service stated that Westley had an influence on his or her life.
During his eulogy, Rev. Morris Brown said that Westley was a father figure to him as well as a big brother.
“He had integrity and character. He had a passion for not wanting to loose. He loved his family.”
Former co-workers Wesley Kinsey and Marvin Mosley also spoke highly of Westley, remembering the times they worked together at the prison.
“There was never a boring moment around Jimmie,” said Kinsey. “I will never forget his big Cadillac and big afro,” he added. Mosley, who now lives in Milledgeville, said that Westley inspired him to start his own business. “He taught me the way of doing things in the right manner.”
Former basketball players Betty Williams Miller, Victoria Williams and Tim Jordan also gave reflections of how Westley influenced them.
“He taught us a lot. He was a father figure,” stated Miller while Williams added “He taught us to be the best we could be in life. I thank God for allowing our paths to cross.” Jordan said that Westley taught him that if he wanted to be good, he needed to be persistent about it.
Westley served four years in the United States Air Force and played basketball for the team at Hunter Air Force Base. He also played at Savannah State averaging 20.4 points while shooting 51 percent from the field during the 1966-67 season. His play earned him a spot on the Southeastern Athletic Conference all-conference team. The following year, Westley averaged 13.4 points a game and 4.5 rebounds while helping the Tigers to a 19-9 record.
Westley was a member of the first Savannah State golf team in 1968 and served as team captain. He later served as head golf coach from 1973-74.
Westley coached the women’s basketball team at Savannah State for four years (1974-78), compiling a record of 74-34 which included wins over Georgia Tech, Florida and Florida State. During the 1975-76 season, Savannah State defeated Georgia Tech 141-18.
Westley had two stints as head basketball coach of the SSU men’s team. He led the Tigers from 1985-87 and again from 1995-97, compiling a 52-55 record. His 1985-86 team ended the season with a 17-8 record and a .680 winning percentage. No Savannah State team has had a higher winning percentage in a single season since.
After the 1987 season, Westley left the coaching ranks and moved back to his first love, golf. Westley had a reputation as a top notch golfer and missed getting his Profession Golf Association (PGA) card by just one shot.
In 1999, Westley re-joined Russell Ellington on the basketball sidelines but this time at Morris Brown in Atlanta.
Jerome Westley was proud of his father saying “My daddy is my hero, was a provider and was a winner.” Jimmie Jr. told those gathered “although we will bury his body, his memory will live on.”
Westley earned his education degree from Savannah State in 1972 and was a Life Member of the SSU National Alumni Association.
Westley leaves his wife of 55 years, Jeannette Green Westley, two sons (Jimmie Jr. and Jerome), one daughter (Janell Westley Edwards), three siblings, six grandchildren, two great grandchildren and a host of other relatives. He was buried in Catholic Cemetery.