Alonzo Blaine James, Jr. was born October 23, 1915, in New Bedford, MA, and was raised in Plymouth, MA. Affectionately known as "Babe" by his family, Coach James, was one of four children raised by his single mother and grandmother. He attended Plymouth High School and spent many hours after school at the local YMCA. During his High School years, he lettered in all sports in that he participated.
After High School, Coach James would attend Florida A&M University (FAMU) and receive his Bachelor of Science Degree in Health and Physical Education. In the summers during college, Coach James worked in the construction industry to help his mother and siblings. While working he realized that many of the men he worked with had no education which upset him, giving him more of a reason to be an educator. At FAMU, his athletic talents shined, as he was All American in football, basketball, baseball, track, wrestling, and boxing. Coach James received numerous awards and acknowledgments for his athletic skills, and his ambidexterity in punting at FAMU earned records that had not been broken for decades. Later in his life, he would be inducted at Florida A&M University Sports Hall of Fame.
After college Coach James, set his sights on professional sports but realized early that even in professional sports, that segregation and his physical make-up of being a 160-pound man, were hindering his chances of playing professional sports. He was even considered too small of an athlete for the Negro Leagues. Determined to be a professional athlete, he never gave up but continued his life's work with students in the schools in Lake City, FL. In a turn of events, Coach James would be drafted for the Canadian Baseball team. During the pre-season training, he realized his true calling was not to sports, but the obligations of his new family and to help the community through education.
Moving from Lake City, FL, Coach James and his wife Montez James, made their new home in New Smyrna Beach to be closer to Montez's family. As educators, they would both teach at New Smyrna Beach's only Black High School, Chisholm High School. Educating students during segregation was challenging for Coach James, but it was his mission to educate all of his students in academics and to teach them life skills for the success of their future.
Known to many as the "Black Mayor of New Smyrna", Coach James was successful with bridging both the black and white communities together for the enrichment of the Historic Westside and Chisholm High School. Coach James's role as a community leader was 24-7, 365 days a year. He was always willing to help his students with anything he could; whether it was buying shoes and clothing for students whose families could not, to bringing his students on educational field trips; he always found the means to help. Coach James also assisted many of his students with applying for and receiving scholarships for college, letters of recommendation, and finding jobs.
Coach James taught the last graduating class of Chisolm High School in 1969 and began teaching at New Smyrna Beach Middle School (NSBMS) during the integration period until his retirement. At NSBMS, he taught Physical Education and was the Assistant Football Coach, until his retirement.
Alonzo “Babe” James, untimely death on July 28, 1981, was devastating for his family and the New Smyrna Beach Community. In his honor, the Alonzo “Babe” James Community Center on North Myrtle Street was created and would serve the families of the Historic Westside. In 2015, a 1600 sqft addition was made to the building by the city of New Smyrna Beach.
The legacy of Alonzo “Babe" James lives on in New Smyrna Beach and all over the country through his children, 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, and the hundreds whose lives he touched. He will not be forgotten for his devotion to family, friends, and community, as well as his dedication to and love of the people of New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Copyright © 2023 Friends of Babe James - All Rights Reserved.