As He's Laid to Rest, Wayne Jamison Remembered as "Once in a Lifetime Legend" who Made an Impact

By Jeff Toquinto on February 27, 2018 via

Rev. Dr. Ken Ramsey stood before the congregation this morning at the Bridgeport United Methodist Church. In a few short sentences, he may have succinctly explained the life of Wayne “Smiley” Jamison who was laid to rest this afternoon.
“Once in a great while, once perhaps in a lifetime, a legend passes through and you have a chance to connect with that person,” said Ramsey. “ … I truly believe he was a legend in many ways.”
The coach, who many already have in the legendary category, passed away Friday. He was 87 years old and an icon in the Bridgeport community and known statewide for his achievements on the football field.
An educator and coach for 40 years, Jamison became a household name to many after assuming the Bridgeport head coaching job in 1970. After that, and before stepping down after the 1997 season, he had coached the Indians to four state championships (1972, 1979, 1986 and 1988) and amassed a record of 230-71 for an impressive .764 winning percentage.
As Ramsey delivered his message to those gathered this morning, he admitted Jamison would have been uncomfortable with the attention about his accomplishments. In particular, he said Jamison would have taken umbrage with being called a legend.
“He may have called me a knucklehead, but Coach is outnumbered today,” said Ramsey.
With his wife Fay Calain Jamison along with his children and grandchildren present, Ramsey talked about the life that was lived, the life that ended and the memories that remained. And the memories were plentiful.
Ramsey talked about Jamison being tenacious and resilient. He said Jamison did everything straight ahead, no frills and nothing fancy – but all done with tenacity. Ramsey said he first learned of it when he arrived in Bridgeport in 1986 and went to his first Bridgeport game. Ramsey said he got a quick lesson in Bridgeport football.
“The first thing I thought when I walked in was ‘my Lord, did the whole town show up?’ Then I remember there was a third-and-13 play and I said to the man next to me ‘I guess he’s going to have to pass here?’ The man next to me asked me ‘is this your first Bridgeport football game?’ I told him it was,” said Ramsey as those gathered laughed in memory. “The guy told me there was ‘no chance.’ He was right, but they handed the ball off and got the first down.”
Ramsey was quick to emphasize that he was more than a football coach. He talked about his decades as an educator, that he loved big band music, could do a mean jitterbug, but was equally legendary for his concern for the kids he was tasked to take care of.
“He had a big heart … The injury to Dan McNamee affected him greatly and that was because he cared for him and he had that care and compassion,” said Ramsey, who also talked how Jamison was shook, but battled forward after losing his son Jay.
Ramsey said perhaps the biggest moment in Jamison’s career – the 1988 four overtime Class AA state title win by way of a fake extra point against Winfield – was motivated out of care for his players.
The ultra-conservative Jamison’s call, Ramsey said, was the result of knowing his kids were tired. Players he spoke to said he mentioned that it was time to decide the game’s outcome one way or the other because everyone was tired and someone may get hurt.
“It wasn’t just a coaching decision. It was a personal decision. His courage came out of his concern and that is an admirable trait,” said Ramsey.
Ramsey said any doubt about Jamison having “legendary” status was removed this past year – if there was any doubt out there. He talked about Jamison showing up for a playoff game and sitting privately with a select few in the track and field building when the student section noticed the long-time coach – who had retired before any of them were even born – and showed their appreciation.
“Here’s a generation we often say is doesn’t get it, but they got it because they began chanting his name. Why? Because he was legendary,” said Ramsey who added that the moment brought the smile to the long-time coach’s face.
As Ramsey concluded the service, he approached the casket. He rolled up his sleeves in vintage Jamison fashion. And ended with this.
“Let’s not be knuckleheads. This is a life worth celebrating … When someone like this passes your way, the only thing you can say is thank you. Thank you Coach. Thank you family. Thank you God,” Ramsey said.
After the service, the interment was held at Floral Hills Memorial Gardens in Quiet Dell.  Military rites were provided by the Harrison County Honor Guard at graveside.
Editor's Note: The funeral procession leaves Bridgeport United Methodist Church late this morning by Ford Funeral Home as Coach Wayne Jamison is taken to his final resting place. The legendary coach is shown on the sidelines during the 1975 season in the photo below provided courtesy of the BHS Journalism Department and Mrs. Alice Rowe.

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