James L. Taylor passed away Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. Jim, or Coach Taylor, as he was affectionately known, was born in Charles Town, WV on February 26, 1934. Among his numerous honors and achievements, Taylor was inducted into the West Virginia University College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences Hall of Fame in 2020.
He attended Eagle Avenue Elementary School in Charles Town and graduated from Page-Jackson High School in 1951. After graduating high school, Taylor enlisted in the US Navy and served in the Korean War from 1951-1955. After serving in the US Navy, Taylor enrolled at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) and graduated in 1955 with BS and AB degrees and a Corrective Therapist Certification. He attended graduate school at West Virginia University and earned a Master of Science Degree in 1965.
At Shepherd College, Taylor played football and was the first African American to play on the team which became the first undefeated and untied team in the history of the college. While at Shepherd as a teacher’s assistant he taught tumbling and gymnastics and coached boxing and wrestling.
After receiving his undergraduate education, he became a teacher at his former high school, Page-Jackson High School in Jefferson County where he taught general science, biology and physical education. He coached football, basketball and track. As the only coach at that high school, he coached both junior varsity and varsity sports. He went on to teach at Charles Town Jr. High and Charles Town High School where he taught physical education and coached football and basketball. He remained in the Jefferson County School system from 1959-1965.
In 1965 he accepted a teaching position at the new Harpers Ferry Job Corps facility. There he taught math, reading and GED classes, and coached basketball, cross country, track and boxing. He remained at Harpers Ferry Job Corps until 1972. He was then offered a teaching position at Jefferson High School, where he taught biology, human anatomy and physiology.
While teaching at Jefferson High School, he also served as the junior varsity football coach, assistant basketball coach and head coach for cross country and track and field. He had the honor of coaching many outstanding athletes to include James Jett, who won a Gold Medal at the 1992 Olympics. Taylor was awarded West Virginia High School Track Coach of the Year in 1994 and retired from teaching in 1995.
In September of 2000, Taylor was one of four men who founded the Jefferson County Black History Society, Inc. to which he was elected president. The Jefferson County Black History Society’s mission is "To research, preserve, present and pass down our history as it was passed down to us from our parents, grandparents, and other African Americans from Jefferson County."
Taylor has given presentations to churches, schools and teachers at special summer programs at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. He has presented at Shepherd University, Jefferson County Historical Society, and on several local radio and television shows. He appeared on the West Virginia Public Television show, "Road Trip through History, African Americans of Jefferson County West Virginia."
He gave a yearly presentation at the alumni reunion for the Page-Jackson High School. As a member of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society, he taught adult education classes on the history of African Americans of Jefferson County, W. Va., which was sponsored by the Jefferson County Board of Education.
He had the honor of placing four West Virginia state highway markers and two City of Charles Town wayside markers about African American History in Jefferson County.
In 2001, Taylor was asked to appear in the ESPN special called "Now and Then, Black Jockeys and the Kentucky Derby."He shared his knowledge of the African American jockey, Jimmy Winkfield, the last jockey of color to win the Kentucky Derby. Taylor personally knew Jimmy Winkfield, as he had spent a part of his life in Charles Town and lived in the same neighborhood as Taylor. Taylor wrote about Winkfield in his first book, titled " African Americans in the Lower Shenandoah Valley."
Taylor was married to his wife Dorothy Young Taylor for 64 years, until her death on July 7, 2020. He was the father of two, Cheryl M. Taylor-Lashley and Randall Y. Taylor.
Dana Brooks, WVU CPASS professor and dean emeritus, says that Taylor had a positive impact on the individuals and communities he worked with. “James Taylor was a historian, social justice advocate and far-sighted leader. He had many talents. His vision for the future was proactive,” Brooks explained. “He had a desire to learn from the past. His gifts to the schools and teams in the region are legendary. He continues to make major contributions to the state through his past efforts.”
“James Taylor will be fondly remembered by everyone at the college. We were honored to know him and are thankful for his leadership and extraordinary influence. We would like to express our most sincere condolences to Mr. Taylor’s family and friends,” Jack Watson, CPASS dean, said.
Services will be held Saturday, September 18 at 11 a.m. at Eackles-Spencer and Norton Funeral Home, Harpers Ferry W.Va. and can be viewed via Facebook livestream. Visit Mr. Taylor's obituary.View Mr. Taylor’s Hall of Fame induction speech.