Jimmy Perry Has Spent his Life Building Boys into to Strong Men of Character
By BILL PLOTT | AHSAA
Coach Jimmy Perry’s teams through the years had one common theme. They knew how to battle through adversity. They learned that trait by watching their coach.
A native of Montgomery, James W. “Jimmy” Perry was graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1975 and Auburn University-Montgomery in 1979. He also earned a master’s degree from AUM.
He started his teaching and coaching career at Trinity Presbyterian School in 1979. He returned to his alma mater Robert E. Lee High School in 1982 as assistant football coach, moving up to athletic director and head coach in 1995. His record at Lee was 38-24 with a state playoff record of 9-3. In 1999 he took a team that struggled in the regular season with a 4-6 record all the way to the Class 6A championship game before losing in overtime in the finals. During his tenure the Generals won three Class 6A region championships.
Perry is one of 12 coaches and administrators being inducted into the Alabama High School sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony and banquet will be March 21 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center at 6 p.m.
In 2000 he joined the staff at Auburn University, serving first as Director of High School and NFL Relations, then as Director of Football Operations.
“Jimmy was integral in his role as high school relations director in building the bonds between the Auburn University staff and the state’s high school coaches,” said Ben Blackmon, a former player for Perry at Lee and currently the head football coach at Enterprise High School. “I have not witnessed, at any other time, the willingness for college coaches to interact with high school coaches in meetings, camps, games and other opportunities to be involved.”
Perry left Auburn in 2008 to become head football coach at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile. His record at St. Paul’s was 27-8 with a playoff record of 4-2. St. Paul’s won three straight 5A region championships.
He assumed his present position as Saint James football coach in 2012. He added Dean of Students to his duties in 2018. His record at Saint James is 79-35 with nine trips to the state playoffs in the last 10 years. He is currently the Trojans’ career wins leader for football. His 2021 team was his fourth to win 10 games. In the school’s 39 years prior to Perry’s arrival, Saint James had just one 10-plus win season (1985). His overall head-coaching record is 144-67. Through the 2021 season, he had 45 players From Robert E. Lee., St. Paul’s and Saint James named to various all-state teams.
Blackmon added, “I grew up playing at Robert E. Lee under Jimmy. During that time there were some very influential men in my life that impacted me, and Coach Perry was one of them. He was like a second father to me and even after graduation he continued to pour encouragement into me to become a coach myself.
“At St. Paul’s in Mobile he stabilized the program into what it has become today. In an attempted to relocate closer to his family roots, Jimmy took over a struggling Saint James program, and they immediately became a success. He has changed the culture at Saint James through discipline, hard work, and consistency.”
Another former player, Aubrey Blackwell, now head coach and athletic director at Benjamin Russell High School, said he saw Perry’s remarkable dedication during his sophomore year: “I watched Coach Perry narrowly escape death as both of his kidneys shut down mid-season, but he battled through, coaching every game even through the playoffs and received a new kidney the next day following our 1997 playoff exit.
“Coach Perry’s career has seen success at all levels, in many different roles. He has built and rebuilt both programs and young men. His lasting legacy to his players and coaches is one that far reaches many at many levels of our game.”
Rev. Keith Waldrop, senior pastor at Montgomery’s Christ Community Church, said, “I have had a front row seat to Jimmy’s leadership for many years and served as team chaplain at Robert E. Lee from 1995-99. It was a pleasure to serve alongside him and to see how deeply he cared for his kids. The year he had his kidney transplant he put off surgery till after the season so he could coach his kids. He was very sick and never complained but literally put it all on the field each week. He coaches every player and has such resolve to get the job done. Jimmy is builder of men and knows how to build champions. He has done this for decades.”
Saint James Head of School Dr. Larry McLemore lauds Perry’s ability to build strong young men of integrity.
“Coach Perry works every day to develop character in the young men on his teams, teaching them to keep their priorities straight and always working to improve themselves,” McLemore said. “He teaches them that they can achieve great things and make a positive impact in their lives if they keep their focus and keep working toward their goals.
“It has been a joy to see Jimmy instill a commitment to education excellence for his players, inspiring them to be the best they can be, model how to love their families and encourage a genuine walk of faith in his players. He is a wonderful example and exemplifies the ideals of a great football coach. I would be honored to have my grandsons play football for Coach Perry.”
Perry has won 11 Coach-of-the-Year awards during his career and was a coach in the 2014 North-South All-Star Game. He was inducted into the Robert E. Lee High School Hall of Fame in 2002.