"Big Jim" Williams _ a football player, coach and teacher as legendary as his name _ died Sunday after a long battle with illness.
He was 75.
"If you want to call anybody a legend, then you have to call "Big Jim" Williams a legend," said Bobby Wilds, a player for Williams at Blake High in the mid 1960s. "When Big Jim spoke, you listened, whether you were a student or an adult. If he told you to do a certain thing with your life, then you did it. That's the kind of respect he had in the community. He was just one of those, rare, rare people."
Mr. Williams began his storied athletic career at Middleton, where he earned football and basketball All-America honors before moving on to Florida A&M.
He played for the Rattlers until World War II, when he went into the Army and served as a first sergeant, fighting mainly in the South Pacific. He returned to Florida A&M under legendary coach Jake Gaither and became a collegiate All-America quarterback in 1948, his senior year.
His coaching legend began in 1949 at Don Thompson Vocational High, which later transformed into Blake. At those schools, he compiled an 88-11-3 record in 17 seasons, including two state championships and two unbeaten seasons.
In 1969, after Williams served a couple of years as head coach at Lousiana's Southern University, he returned to coach with Brown at Blake High for one season, which ended in a state championship for the Yellow Jackets.
That championship year also marked the last time a Hillsborough County public school won a state football title.
Williams went to the University of Tampa as an assistant in 1970 and, in 1972, became the head coach at Florida A&M. He stayed two seasons with the Rattlers before leaving with a 10-12 record.
In 1997, when the new Blake High opened its football season, the school honored Williams by naming its stadium after him in a ceremony involving hundreds of former colleagues, players and fans.
Wilson Funeral Home in Tampa is handling arrangements.