Second Chance Jimmie

Jimmie Alexander enjoyed a successful decade as Walker High School’s athletic director, but his shining moment occurred years ago on a small baseball field. 

Words by Terrell Manasco | Images by Blakeney Clouse

Sitting upright on his sofa, his iceberg blue eyes sparking with electricity, Jimmie Alexander’s velvet-soft voice rises as he recalls the first baseball game he umpired. “Little kid gets up to bat, pitch is thrown—POW! He goes across the mound to second base and back home as fast as he can go! He’s been playing street ball and he doesn’t know three bases!” Jimmie laughs. “The fans went wild!

Born and raised near Cordova, Jimmie grew up in an athletic family. Wherever he went, there was always a game being played. “We had a basketball court in my grandmother’s yard, a baseball field in my uncle’s pasture, and a football field behind our house,” he says. “Out of 59 grandchildren, we always had plenty of people to play.”

In the 1950s, Jimmie played baseball and basketball at Cordova High, though he admits he didn’t play that well. At 18 months old, he had fallen off a porch and broken his left arm—a debilitating condition that required several surgeries throughout his youth. “The doctors messed it up big time. They nearly cut it in two a couple of places,” Jimmie says. “When the doctor removed the adhesive tape, it took the skin off all the way to the bone. The last surgery was to put a hip bone right here in my arm.” 

After graduating high school in 1956, Jimmie earned biology, chemistry, and education degrees at Florence State. While there, he applied for a position with Southern Research in Birmingham. He didn’t get the job—nor did anyone else. “Ten days before my class graduated, NASA in Huntsville released 1,200 scientists and mathematicians…and the job market closed,” Jimmie says. 

In 1960, Jimmie taught ninth gradeat Sipsey Junior High and coached basketball, baseball, and track. Three years later he coached seventh-and eighth-grade basketball and baseball at Jasper City Schools. “My last year, we had the first football team for Jasper City Schools,” Jimmie says.

He coached for a year at Dora High, then went to Oakman in 1968 as head baseball and basketball coach, and assistant football coach. At halftime of a Blue Devil basketball game, a young Cordova senior named Carol Berzette caught Jimmie’s eye. “The Cordova cheerleaders were exiting the floor, and I saw this very attractive young lady,” he says. “I sought her out and asked her for a date.”

In March 1970, Jimmie and Carol were married. That year he got a call from Cordova High principal Wilburn Hudson. “He asked if I wanted to come home,” Jimmie says. For five years, Jimmie coached basketball and baseball, and assisted head football coach Charlie Brown. When his salary couldn’t support a growing family, he went to work for Drummond Coal, and later Taft Coal Company.   

During the summers, Jimmie umpired games for Jasper Parks and Recreation, but his passion was coaching his son Brian’s Little League team. “I had watched some kids grow up who were not taught proper technique,” Jimmie says. “I wasn’t trying to hone their skills as much as I was trying to teach them the total aspect of the game.” 

After a 26-year career with Taft Coal, Jimmie retired in 2005. That lasted all of two days. “(Superintendent) Phillip Woods called me and said (Walker High’s) athletic director had accepted a principal’s job in Haleyville, and would I fill in in the interim? I filled in for 10 years,” Jimmie grins. 

When Walker’s long-time athletic trainer, Jack Lamon, suffered a stroke in 2015, the Vikings searched for a replacement. Although Lamon had volunteered his time, Jimmie lobbied to create a full-time, paid position. “I think the single most thing I was able to accomplish was convincing the board to hire a full-time athletic trainer. And we hired Bob White,” Jimmie smiles. “He’s meant so much to that program.”

That could also be said about Jimmie himself. He was well-respected by students and players because he believed in them

He also believed in second chances. 

“We were playing for the Little League championship,” Jimmie begins. “A young man on my team had not had a hit all year long. We’ve got runners on base, two outs, and this young man’s coming to bat. The kids are asking, ‘Who you going to pinch hit, Coach?’ I said, ‘No, he’s hitting for himself. The game is tied, we’re OK. He’s the batter, and he’s going to get his swings.’”

Jimmie’s eyes widen as he relates what happened next. “Of all things to happen, he gets a hit, we win the game, and he gets mobbed! His teammates pummeled him! I wish you could have seen it!”

The coach didn’t get a Gatorade bath that day. “I got a kiss from his mom and a hug from his dad,” Jimmie says. 

It was the greatest reward he ever received. 78

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