James William “Billy” Roberson

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, September 15, 2022

James William “Billy” Roberson, 97, died Tuesday, September 13, 2022, at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford after a brief illness. Visitation will be held at Waters Funeral Home in Baldwyn on Sunday, September 18, 2022, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. with a service immediately following at 4 o’clock. Born in Pontotoc on April 10, 1925, to Elsie Shannon Roberson and James Samuel Roberson, Billy lived his early years in Pontotoc and was a multi-sport athlete, including playing quarterback for the Pontotoc Warriors. After high school and one semester at Mississippi State, Billy joined the Naval Air Corps in 1943 in New Orleans. He served his country for three years, one month, and eight days in the Navy, and was discharged on May 16, 1946, in Bainbridge, Maryland. During the war years he attended Tulane University and Cornell University, all as a part of his duties with the Navy and the war effort. He also served at Naval Station Great Lakes in Chicago; Asbury Park, New Jersey; and Fort Dix, New Jersey. His last assignment was in Washington, D.C., and he was asked by his commanding officer to remain in the Navy for a career. But he chose to come back to his north Mississippi roots, and he returned to Pontotoc. He returned to Mississippi because the most important aspect of his life for his entire life was his family, and so many close friendships. He attended the University of Mississippi in Oxford but left school in 1948 to join Coach Babe McCarthy at Baldwyn High School. He had planned to stay only one year to help McCarthy coach Bearcat sports teams. And while he actually coached for only one year, during that school year he met the music teacher at BHS, Jane Gentry, and they married on July 15, 1949. He remained in Baldwyn for the next 70 years, until he moved to Oxford to be near his son, Jeff Roberson. While in Baldwyn, he took over Gentry Insurance Agency from his father-in-law in 1950, but not before he and Jane returned to Oxford so he could complete his degree from Ole Miss. A 74-year member of First Methodist Church in Baldwyn, Billy served in many church capacities as well as many civic capacities in Baldwyn. He was a nine-year member of the Baldwyn Separate School District Board of Trustees and served a term as President. Billy was a talented musician and sang in the church choir his entire adult life. He also was a trumpet player, playing at school assemblies and in the high school band in his youth, and Taps at funeral and graveside ceremonies into his 90s. He played Taps on Memorial Day, 2020, at Elison Assisted Living in Oxford (formerly Azalea Gardens; Elmcroft), where he lived for the past three years. His recreational passion was golf, and Billy was a regional pioneer in the sport. He was one of the best golfers in northeast Mississippi from the 1950s for decades, winning numerous tournaments and serving as a founding member of the Natchez Trace Golf Club. He won the club championship at the “Trace” three times and was runner up five times. He was still playing good golf into his late 80s. He was a member of the Tupelo Country Club for a number of years. Many of his best friendships were formed on the golf course, at the golf clubs, and at tournaments. One of his most memorable golf days was playing in the Pro-Am of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic (later the FedEx St. Jude Classic) in 1975. Paired with professional Dave Stockton, Billy had five birdies on the day at Colonial Country Club and enjoyed remembering that special day that he had shared with many friends and family for the rest of his life. An avid supporter of the Ole Miss Rebels, he attended Ole Miss football games for 80 years and was a longtime season ticket holder in football, basketball, and baseball. Through the years, Billy supported and cheered for many family members who played for Ole Miss – cousins James Tillman (football), Charles Tillman (football), and Bain Shannon (baseball), nephew Jimmy Weatherly (football), and great niece Hannah Weatherly Kimbrough (soccer). His last Ole Miss football game to attend was a 38-17 Ole Miss win against LSU in 2015 as the Rebels were on their way to another Sugar Bowl appearance. His final Ole Miss sports event to attend was in January of this year when the Ole Miss men’s basketball team defeated Kansas State. He followed every game of the 2022 College World Series on TV as Ole Miss won the baseball national championship in Omaha. He was a 70-year member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. Billy is survived by his son, Jeff Roberson of Oxford; a sister, Mary Ann Roberson Herndon of Memphis, Tenn.; a cousin, Julia Shannon Yandell of Madison; several nieces and nephews: Sherrie Winter, Tommy Wood (Anita), Elise Black (Scott), Randy Wood (Marilyn), Terry Wood (Melinda), Cristi Mansfield (Ken), Jerri Thompson (Wendell), Robby Roberson (Kelly), Kelly Dobbins (Laurence), Jody Herndon, Cynthia Weatherly, Kevin Ann Weatherly; a cousin-in-law Bobbie Gentry Griffin; and very special friends: Amy Weeden (Ken), Laura Holt (Jim), and their children, Sloan Weeden, Saili Weeden, and Lindi Holt. Billy also was blessed with a host of great nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Laura Jane Gentry Roberson; his parents, Elsie and James Roberson, his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Gladys and Claude Gentry; his siblings Edith Roberson Weatherly, Jean Roberson Wood, and Richard Roberson; nephews Jim Weatherly, Shan Weatherly, and Ronnie Winter; and very special friend Linda McCarthy Pendergest. Linda, Amy, and Laura and their families brought so much joy to his life in the latter decades and became a special part of his family as well. Many thanks from his family to all staff and co-workers of Gentry Insurance Agency – including longtime special friends Mary Lee Michael, Jeannette Shackelford, and the late Martha Gardner – as well as those of Cornerstone Insurance, and Farmers and Merchants Bank. Thanks from his family to the staff at Elison of Oxford for their many days of love and care for the past three years. Pallbearers are David Hill, Craig Gaines, Gregg Ellis, Bill Langston, Kenneth Webb, Mitch Caver, Terry Wood, Randy Wood, Tommy Wood, Scott Black, Ken Weeden, and Jim Holt. Memorials are encouraged to be made to First Methodist Church of Baldwyn, Miss., his church home that was so important to him for seven decades. Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family @www.watersfuneralservice.com

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