James Monroe Coley Jr.
1951 - 2021
Canale Funeral Directors
2700 Union Avenue Extended
Memphis, TN
James Monroe Coley, Jr.

February 11, 1951 - October 10, 2021
James Monroe Coley, Jr.
, born February 11, 1951 in Houston, Texas, died October 10, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he made his home for 69 years. He was a graduate of Messick High School, received his bachelor's degree at Memphis State University and his M.Ed from University of Memphis. Jim was a member of the Highland Church of Christ, where he attended with his family.

After obtaining his bachelor's degree, Jim was the Theater Manager at the Orpheum Theatre. During that time his love of the theater and arts grew and even then, he involved himself in lobbying for funding to refurbish the aging theater. He was a founding member of FOTO (Friends of the Orpheum). He was creative, a great storyteller, played drums, loved music of many types, especially early rock & roll, jazz & blues.

Jim lived his life selflessly; his greatest joy came from giving joy or aid to others. From humble beginnings and personal experience of struggles in school, he was inspired by one teacher who noticed his love of current events and brought Jim a copy of the newspaper each day to read. This led to the two paths of service his life would eventually take – one in education and one in politics.

Jim's love of current events and political policy was fueled by the influence of professors in the political science department at Memphis State. He formed life-long relationships with those professors, who encouraged his critical thinking about public policy

He went on to teach Government, History and Modern political thought, first in the Memphis & Shelby County School systems for over 20 years, as well as an adjunct professor at University of Memphis. He served the people of state of Tennessee for 14 years in the state House of Representatives, District 97.

During his term as a Representative, he made time to listen to EVERYONE, even those with differing opinions! (he loved discussion of ideas)! Jim was a champion to those in need and found many ways to help his community. Perhaps his most notable achievement was in passing legislation to curb human trafficking and to help those affected by domestic violence.

By far, Jim's most important role and joy came from watching his children, Erin and Evan, from infancy to adulthood. He will be remembered for telling bedtime stories, into which he inserted them along with Bilbo Baggins; coaching soccer when no one else was available, even though he didn't know the rules; practicing baseball and playing catcher; hopping around the house Easter morning; singing the "Good Morning" song, "Red, Red Robin" Toot-Toot-Tootsie Goodbye". At the end of the day, their happiness mattered more than anything else. In that same way, everyone was his family.

Jim leaves his immediate family, Paula Bittle Coley, Erin Emily Coley, Evan Andrew Coley, Tera Bradley, two grandsons, Owen & Merritt, and one beloved golden retriever, Folly. He also leaves many members of the Bittle and Edwards families, and those privileged to be considered family and called Aunt or Uncle.

Preceded in death by his parents, Wilma Josephine (Edwards) Coley and James Monroe Coley, Sr.

Memorial service will be 11:00 a.m., Monday, October 18, at Highland Church of Christ at 400 N. Houston Levee Rd, Cordova, TN, with reception to follow. The family will be available at 10:00 a.m. for visitation.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Restore Corps (www.restorecorps.org), 1548 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104. Restore Corps is a local organization that exists to eradicate human trafficking.
Published by The Daily Memphian on Oct. 12, 2021.
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10 Entries
Paula, I do not think we ever met but I wanted you to know that my husband, David Shepard, a democrat in the legislature with Jim, thought a lot of your husband. I know this because he spoke highly of Jim many times over the years. Unfortunately, David died this year also on Feb. 4th. I know your grief and wish you comfort and peace. Martha Shepard
Martha J Shepard
October 20, 2021
Dear Paula, Erin, Evan and family, Robert and I were heartbroken when we heard the news that Jim had passed away from cancer. We miss him very much and will be thinking of you and your family in the days ahead. Jim and I met in graduate school. Jim was married to Paula and Erin was a toddler. Later he would tell me that Evan would be on board and I thought him a very lucky man. When I visited the Coley household and met Paula for the first time, Evan was on the kitchen floor slinging pots and pans around and Jim and I just busted out laughing--here was Bam-Bam personified! Erin was a delight and the apple of her Dad's eye. Throughout our friendship one great thing comes to mind--the story telling and laughter --the great enjoyment we experienced as we recounted the ridiculous but also the sublime things that happened in our lives. Laughter is what I remember and Jim asking--"Is that right?" When Jim first ran for the state legislature, all of his friends went out on the hustings to campaign for him. On a particularly hot, August day we fanned out and went door to door. A colleague of ours, not indigenous to the South was lagging behind, sweating and moaning about how impossibly hot it was. But when she discovered that Jim was drinking iced tea inside a constituent's air-conditioned house, she became exceedingly indignant-- how could Jim expect her to suffer while he, as she put it, chewed the fat? Later Jim and I laughed about it--the South has its charms and the people a particular way of doing and seeing things--We miss you Jim--our pal always. Love and best wishes to Paula and family, Robert and Casey Armour
Casey and Robert Armour
October 18, 2021
Jim Coley was a student of mine at the University of Memphis. Later, when we became good friends, he taught me more about political philosophy than I had ever taught him about English lit. He was a great conversationalist, a learned man who wore his learning lightly, and also that rare specimen, a good Christian and a capable and honest politician. In the Tennessee legislature, he worked for what he believed was right and in the best interest of his constituents. I believe that when he left the world, he had accomplished more good than anyone I knew.
William Gebauer
October 15, 2021
We are so shocked to hear the morning news on Monday of the passing of Jim. Jim means so much to us and to the Chineses teachers and staff we have in the Eat Asian Institute. He and two or three dozen of teachers have traveled to China with me on the Fulbright and Study Abroad Programs. We had wonderful time travel in many places together and I have learned so much from him since we met in mid-1990s. He is very friendly to everyone one he met and is willing to help in anyway he can. Without his encouragement and support, the Institute would not be able to grow and progress so well in the last 13 years and recognized and awarded as one of the best Institutes Globally. Jim will be deeply missed and he is a friend forever and will be in our memory forever. We love him and also we love his family - Paula, Erin, and Evan. We give our sincere sympathies and condolences to his family and friends. Take good care of yourselves and Jim is in a good resting place !
Hsiang-te and Lena Kung
October 15, 2021
My memories of Jim go back to probably Jr. High. We would sit on the curb at night and he played guitar while we sang Beatles songs. We shared many years of good memories and musical experiences together. We lost touch after school until facebook came along and we reconnected from a distance. He will be missed by the many lives that he touched. I pray comfort for the family and friends.
Don Abel
October 14, 2021
Our condolences & prayers for Paula, Erin & Evan. He was a good shepherd here on earth. Always willing to help someone. He was an extraordinary man! Our family loved him dearly and I'm sure we'll gather together again one day! Love, the Lollar family
Brenda Lollar
October 13, 2021
Dear Paula, Erin and Evan, Wade and I are so sorry to hear of Jim's passing. Always friendly, always smiling, always interesting, Jim was someone I always was happy to see at St Agnes. We send our warmest prayers and condolences. <3 Barbara McKnight
Wade and Barbara McKnight
October 13, 2021
We are praying fervently for the Coley family during this difficult time. Representative Coley was a dear friend and we will miss him. However, I know we will meet again soon!
Lee Mills
October 12, 2021
Paula & Family, I'm so sorry to hear about Jim! I've known him for so many years & have funny memories of him! May God wrap His loving arms around the family at this time to comfort & bring peace to you! RIP, my fellow Messick Panther! With sympathy, prayers, & love
Doey Barrar
October 12, 2021
Paula, Erin, Evan | Coley Family/Friends ... So many accomplishments, a wealth of hopes and dreams fulfilled and now a legacy to celebrate. Today and always, may fond memories of Jim bring you peace, support and strength. Sincere condolences ... Respectfully, Greg Davis Classmate - Messick High School (1970) www.Messick1970.com
Greg Davis
October 12, 2021
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