Jimmy Gill was the type of man who grew vegetables and shared them with friends, told funny stories about his dog Roscoe, and would dress as a pirate for a good cause.
He was also the kind of man for whom community service meant serving his city in various roles from city council to interim mayor to volunteer.
Today, March 27, 2016, on Easter Sunday, Gill died from his second battle with cancer.
Gill, who turned 68 on March 21, was first elected to the City County in 1992, and was one of the longest serving city council members in the state.
“Today we lost a good servant for the City of Athens and a good friend,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “Jimmy is going to be missed by all of us, but he would challenge us to keep moving forward and to find a good person to fill his role to keep the work going.”
During his tenure on the Athens City Council, there were two projects special to Gill that he was determined to see to fruition: the renovation and preservation of Fort Henderson/Trinity School and a park for citizens living south of U.S. 72.
Union soldiers, including runaway slaves, built Fort Henderson during the Civil War, and Trinity School operated for black students after the war until integration in 1970. Gill was a 1966 graduate of Trinity School. The Pincham-Lincoln Community Center now is in operation at the Trinity site with plans to turn the school’s band room into a museum chronicling the story of slave to soldier to student.
There was no park in the city south of U.S. 72 until 2008, when the Jimmy Gill Park opened to serve citizens in that area.
“When I was a reporter for The Decatur Daily, Jimmy wanted me to see the story, not just hear about an issue at a council meeting,” said Holly Hollman, who is now the grant coordinator/communications specialist for the City of Athens. “He took me to walk the crumbled halls of Trinity School when dead leaves and discarded school books littered the floors. He took me to speak to residents with limited transportation who wanted a recreational facility near them for their children. His service to Athens and its citizens was a priority in his life.”
Gill served various times as president of the Athens City Council, and in that role served as interim mayor in 2006 when the late Dan Williams was out for surgery. He was also involved in the following:
• Served on both the City of Athens Relay for Life Team and his church's Relay Team at Oak Grove-CME Church
• Participated in the City of Athens Relay for Life Team's Celebrity Waiter’s Night fundraiser (He raised the most in tips the past three years.) This is one of his favorite fundraisers.
• Served on TARCOG (Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments)
• Served on the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee, which provides community events such as the LBF Park Christmas Tree Lighting and Toy/Bicycle Give-Away at Christmas and the Martin Luther king Jr. Holiday Celebration.
• Served on the Solid Waste Authority
• Served on one of the committees for Alabama League of Municipalities
• Participated in Poke Sallet Follies to benefit the Limestone County Foundation for Aging. He participated every year except the first year in 1992 and this year because of his health. He had roles as a pirate, baby, triplet and many other crazy characters.
• Involved in organizing the Trinity Class of 1966's Bi-Annual Trinity Grand Reunion.
• Served on the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame Board
• Served on the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Board
Gill is survived by his wife Deborah Gill and four children. He worked at GM/Delphi where he retired after 29 years and earned the nickname “Huggy Bear.” He was active in his congregation at Oak Grove CME Church.
By: Holly Hollman
Funeral arrangements have not been completed.*
*Funeral arrangements can be found in Publisher’s Point on page 3.