James Black Obituary, Former public school educator and administrator has sadly passed away

James Black Death, Obituary – James Leck Black, 75, of Memphis, beloved family man, former public school educator and administrator, real estate executive, and life-long UT Vol fan, died peacefully on Tuesday, September 6th, 2022 after a long illness. To those who knew him best—and even to those who encountered him elsewhere throughout his long, successful life—“Jim” was known as a servant minister in every sense of the phrase. Never sought credit for his contributions but rather celebrated the successes of those who benefited from his guidance and generosity. Whether it was a math student struggling to understand quadratic equations or a young couple struggling to find a “just right” starter home.
Jim was born March 18th, 1947 in Humboldt, Tennessee. He was raised in the hamlet of Dyer by his parents Ocie Leck Black, a beloved local mechanic, and Marjorie Thompson Black, a homemaker and active volunteer for the Democratic Party. Jim idolized his older brother, Williams Ray (Bill) Black. And it was with great pride that Jim would see his big brother appointed to the United States Military Academy. At age 10, Jim got his first job as a dishwasher at Camp McMorris Boy Scout camp in Camden, TN. Jim, who became a proud Eagle Scout, would continue to work at the camp for many years.
In 1963, Jim was selected to serve as a congressional page in Washington, D.C. at the height of the civil rights movement. He fondly remembers his parents putting him on a bus with a $20 bill for his semester in D.C.! In 1965, Jim went on to graduate from Dyer High School as valedictorian, after which he was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Martin. While there, he met many of his life-long friends through his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega. Jim served as fraternity president his senior year. (Throughout Jim's illness, his ATO brothers reached out to him and encouraged him to continue the good fight.) After graduation, Jim had designs on medical school, but his application plans were interrupted by the deaths of his father and brother in 1969—dying within four months of each other. His father, Ocie, passed away unexpectedly, and his brother Bill was killed in the Vietnam War while serving with valor and distinction—a tragic tandem of events that introduced Jim to the sorrow of grief, which surely gave him his deep compassion for others suffering similar losses.
So, as destiny played a different hand, Jim went back to school and earned a master of Education from the University of Memphis and eventually became a teacher in the Memphis City School system. As his career in education bloomed, Jim also went back to school to pursue his doctorate in education. After kick-starting his teaching career at the Downtown Occupational School, the school system soon realized Jim was an exceptional educator and leader. So, at age 24, he was appointed principal to Gragg Alternative School on Jackson Avenue and became the youngest principal in the Memphis City School System. As Jim would say, Gragg was the “last option” for many underprivileged students who might otherwise drop out altogether or sadly end up in jail. Later, Jim was appointed for a stint as principal at Georgian Hills Jr. High School, but eventually became a co-principal of Ridgeway High School—one of Jim's fondest assignments. Jim served with George White as co-principal. Both parents and students loved the team, so much so that the co-principals were featured in an amusing newspaper story written by columnist Lydel Sims who couldn’t help but notice that “Mr. White was black and Mr. Black was white.” In Jim’s final year with the Memphis City Schools, he served as principal of Treadwell High School, where he most likely kept an eagle eye on the educational “games” of famous roundballers Elliott Perry and Penny Hardaway (in the event that basketball didn’t work out).
While Jim was employed by the school system, he developed a passion for real estate and spent his off days and vacation time studying to become a realtor, eventually earning his license. Jim loved buying and selling homes. In fact, he was one of the first to invest in a downtown condo in the early 1980's. His River Row condo had a front-row view of downtown Mississippi River sunsets and was also “conveniently” located above the former Caramba's Cantina. Naturally, as the waiters learned to send up a nightly beverage or two via a rope tied around a tray, the merry downtown bachelor ended up with a large quantity of Caramba's glasses in his condo. Jim spent the next forty years with Marx-Bensdorf Realtors as an affiliate broker and broker-
owner from 2005 until 2016. Jim derived great pleasure in helping buyers and sellers manage and realize the most important purchase of their lives. No matter how small or large the property, Jim would always provide each client with exceptional service—and, of course, education—which led to constant referrals. Jim, always available to help and serve, delighted in mentoring fellow realtors in their own business-building pursuits.
But the service didn’t end in his professional life. Jim was also an elder, deacon, and finance committee member at Hope Church Memphis, a Youth Villages 5K volunteer for many years, and a parent advisor for the Washington and Lee University Mid-South Chapter Board. He humbly gave of his time, earnings, and prayers without looking for anything in return. Alas, the perpetual downtown bachelor would not stay one forever. Jim eventually married the love of his life Cathleen Black in a festively tropical celebration on St. John Island (U.S. Virgin Islands) surrounded by close friends and not a little frivolity. At the time, Jim was 44 years old and Cathleen was a widowed mother of two children, John and Molly. Jim stepped into his new life with love and purpose, raising them both as his own kids. Their blessed family union endured for 27 years.
Jim is survived by Cathleen, his children, John (Mary Alice) West, and Molly (Matt) Craycraft. He is the beloved " Pop Pop" to his two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Mary Evelyn (" Evelyn") Craycraft. Jim always encouraged his children to " do their best&quot, and supported them in everything that they did. Jim loved deeply. And not just his family and friends. He also loved good food and spirits, collegiate sports (with a “slight” favor to the Vols), world travel with his family, his Big Green Egg, and a whole series of fuzzy family companions—Brittany Spaniels Ginnie, Bella, and Lucy Mae. Let Jim’s ability to love deeply be his lasting legacy and inspiration for all of us to do likewise.

Burial Arrangements And Obituary

Visitation is this Saturday, September 10th, from 10 to 11 a.m. at Hope Church Memphis, 8500
Walnut Grove Road, Cordova, TN. A celebration of Jim’s life will follow at 11 a.m., also at Hope.
In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests any memorials for Jim be made to either the Hope
Church Memphis Endowment Fund or the Neighborhood Christian Center.

In the meantime, at the bottom of this page is a section made available for tributes for the deceased, prayers for the family, and other persons mourning this death. Please use it respectfully and mind your choice of language.

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