James Alton Berry
Son. Brother. Father. Uncle. Grandfather. Coach. Southern Miss fan.
All of these titles, and so many more, could be applied to James Alton Berry, who passed away on October 9, 2018 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at 77 years of age. Mr. Berry was born on October 8th, 1941 in Geneva, AL. He was an outstanding high school athlete, and was recruited by Coach Thad “Pie” Vann to play football for the University of Southern Mississippi, starting a family tradition of love and support for the university that has continued for three generations since. During his playing days at Southern Miss, James was a three-year letterman, a key member of the 1962 UPI Small College National Championship team, and selected by his teammates as a permanent caption of the 1963 squad. When Coach Vann noticed that James was “one of the finest football minds we had on our squad”, he offered him a position coaching defensive backs after his playing days ended. Coach Berry went on to coach the “Southerners” and, later the new USM moniker, Golden Eagles, from 1964-1972 serving under both Coach Vann and Coach P.W. “Bear” Underwood. James was also honored by being inducted into the USM Sports Hall of Fame on October 4, 2013. When he finished coaching, James began a career in hotel management in Panama City, Florida and Lagrange, Georgia. Upon his retirement, James moved back to Hattiesburg to be near family.
Mr. Berry is preceded in death by his parents Albert Dewey Berry and Lillie Pearl Berry, his brothers Albert Melon Berry and Robert Gerald Berry, brother-in-law Harold Burdeshaw, sister Patsy Berry Watts, and sister-in-law Ruth Berry. Also preceding James in death are his son James “Jimbo” Berry, nephews Richard “Kicker” Berry and William Troy Watts, and nieces Margaret Renee Watts and Stephanie Michelle Berry.
James was a dedicated and loving father and grandfather he is survived by daughters Gigi Berry Harvey (Robbie) and Barbara Berry, son Louis Albert Berry (Holli) and daughter-in-law Pam Higgason Berry. Grandchildren of Mr. Berry are Christy Bell Purvis (Bryan), James Alton Berry III, Matthew Louis Berry, Jessica Anne Fullen, Joseph Zimmerman (Ruth), Pamela Gamache Anderson, Owen Berry, and Mora-Lilli Berry. James was the great-grandfather to Daisy Sumrall, Hunter Sumrall, Remington Sumrall, Tyler Redmond, Tristen Redmond, Madison Fullen, Bryson Fullen, Jason Lee Garner, Brady James Garner, and Brittney Belle Garner, and Mcyunzie Berry.
James is survived by many family members who loved him dearly, including a sister Theresa Burdeshaw, a brother-in-law Donald Watts, and a sister-in-law Linda Berry. Mr. Berry’s surviving nephews are Mark Berry (Karen), Tracy Burdeshaw (Tina), and David (Amy) Berry, and nieces Susan Berry, Sherry Gortney (Bill), Dr. Charlotte Watts (Gary Russell), and Dr. Amy Henley (Dr. David Cason).
Services to remember the life of James Berry will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church on Friday, November 2nd. The family will receive guests from 9:00-10:30, with a service starting at 10:30. Honorary pallbearers are Mark Berry, David Berry, Billy Mikel, and the 1962 Southern Mississippi National Championship Football team.
All members of the congregation are encouraged to wear black and gold to the service to honor the USM Golden Eagles, who James loved so dearly. Also, donations in honor of Mr. Berry can be made to USM Foundation for the 1962 USM Football Endowment and sent to PO Box 15458, Hattiesburg, MS 39404.
James Berry will be missed every day, but particularly during football season - “We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em”.