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James Willamson "Jim" Kimmell

January 18, 1935 December 28, 2019
James Willamson "Jim"  Kimmell
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Obituary for James Willamson "Jim" Kimmell

James Williamson “Jim” Kimmell, teacher, coach, and principal in the public schools of South Carolina for 36 years, died Saturday, December 28, 2019, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. His death came only weeks after the death of his helpmate and wife of 64 years, Cornelia Ware Kimmell.

Jim Kimmell was born January 18, 1935, on the kitchen table in the family’s house in the Margrace Mill community of Kings Mountain, NC. His parents were the late Harry and Pauline (Fraley) Kimmell. He excelled as an athlete from an early age. He played on the Gastonia, NC, American Legion baseball team at age 12 and started for the Kings Mountain High School football, basketball, and baseball teams all four years of his high school career before graduating in 1953. Still the only athlete to accomplish this feat in school history, he was named to the Kings Mountain High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991.

A triple-threat single-wing tailback and a prolific-hitting second baseman, Kimmell attended Lenoir Rhyne College on an athletic scholarship. He led the LR baseball team in batting average his junior and senior years, hitting over .400 both years. Kimmell was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and participated in one spring training but left the team in frustration after the coaches did not allow him an opportunity to display his batting skills in practice.

In 1955, while in college, Kimmell married his high-school sweetheart, Cornelia Ware, a National Merit Scholar, salutatorian of their high school class, and granddaughter of a former mayor of Kings Mountain. After Jim’s graduation from Lenoir Rhyne in 1957, Jim and Cornelia moved to Saluda, South Carolina, where they began their decades-long mission to enrich the lives of young people. Together they also raised four children.

At Saluda High School, Jim was the assistant football coach, baseball coach, coach of the women’s basketball team, and for one year, coach of the men’s basketball team. Jim coached one year at Ridge Spring-Monetta High School before returning to Saluda in 1961. In 1962 and 1963, the Saluda High School football team won back-to-back South Carolina Class A State Championships. In 1966, Jim’s women’s and men’s basketball teams both won their conference championships.

Jim became head football coach at Lewisville High School in 1966 and head football coach and athletic director at Newberry High School in 1967. At Newberry High School, Jim was selected Newberry County Teacher of the Year in 1969 and was named the Conference Football Coach of the Year in 1969 and 1970. In 1972, Jim became head football coach and athletic director at Chester High School, where he was named Conference and Regional Football Coach of the Year in 1975. In 1978, Jim became head football coach and athletic director at Latta High School, where he also coached women’s softball and in 1981 was named the Conference Softball Coach of the Year.

Having earned a Master of Education degree from Winthrop University during his years coaching, Jim served the final decade of his career in education as principal of Latta Primary School. As principal, Jim initiated an annual book-reading challenge, which culminated each spring in a day of celebration during which teachers dressed as clowns and a helium balloon was released for each book read during the year by Latta Primary School pupils. The number of balloons sent aloft each year numbered in the tens of thousands, and the school’s reading test scores likewise soared.

Jim retired as an educator in 1993, after 36 years of service. Throughout his career, he was intent on instilling in his players and students’ qualities that would serve them well in all aspects of life: preparation, persistence, and a sense of joy. The late Duane Dennie, who played for Jim at Newberry High School and coached under him as an assistant coach at Chester High School, put it this way to the Laurens Observer in 1997 when explaining his decision to apply for and accept the position of head football coach at Laurens High School after previously leaving coaching for a year after his son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy: “Coach Kimmell is really the reason I got into coaching football. He taught us a lot about football, but more importantly, he taught us things that could be related to life. I learned more and have used more things he taught than you’ll possibly know.”

After Jim’s retirement, he and Cornelia moved to Myrtle Beach, where together they were active and loving grandparents, enthusiastic supporters of local sports teams, and volunteers with community charities. Both were also avid birders.

Survivors include three sons, James W. “Kim” (Karol) Kimmell, Jr., Edward Ware Kimmell, Jeffrey Kodi (Kristi) Kimmell; & a daughter, Marti (Curt) Hancock; nine grandchildren, Grayson Hancock (Chris Owens), Anna Kimmell, Will Kimmell, Luke Hancock, Mallory Hancock (Karl Thompson), Karlee Kimmell (Clay) Hetland, Hanna Kimmell, Calen Kimmell, & John James Kimmell; and three great-grandchildren, Cayla Owens, Chris Owens, & Henry Thompson. He was preceded in death by a grandchild, James Curtis Hancock.

A Memorial Gathering to remember the lives of both Cornelia Ware Kimmell and Coach Jim Kimmell will be held from 5:00-8:00 PM on Friday, January 3, 2020 at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot, 851 Broadway St., Myrtle Beach, SC 29577. Friends and family are invited to attend.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to Help 4 Kids, 2523 Forestbrook Road, Myrtle Beach, SC, 843-651-4310,

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5:00 PM 1/3/2020 5:00:00 PM - 8:00 PM 1/3/2020 8:00:00 PM
Myrtle Beach Train Depot

851 Broadway St.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

Myrtle Beach Train Depot
851 Broadway St. Myrtle Beach 29577 SC
United States

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