SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Many across our area reacted with shock and sadness Monday morning to the tragic news that Chatham County Commissioner James Holmes had lost his battle with COVID 19.
Holmes had served District 2 since 2004 but was known across the county as “Coach Holmes” after a lifetime of service to youth through the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club and also as a basketball coach at the high school and college level.
“He was a good person, the kind everyone wants to emulate,” said his friend of 64 years James Green. Green told us how he met Holmes at the age of 7 when he went to what was then the “Boys Club” for the first time.
“He (Holmes) was about 15 at the time and he was like was like a youth advisor, a youth counselor and as I grew up he became my basketball coach,” said Green. “Everything I knew about basketball I learned from him.”
Green also said he learned a lot about life and achieving goals by following Holmes’ example. He told a story of having Holmes give him a pair of Converse Tennis Shoes (the rage at the time). “He never got those shoes back,” Green said.
“That was how Holmes was, if you needed money he would give it to you. If you didn’t have it, he would find a way to get you help from someone else,” said Green.
Holmes was remembered with respect and fondness by members of the County Commission Monday. Chairman Al Scott said “he had never seen “anybody on the Commission that was more dedicated than Mr. Holmes in terms of serving their district.”
“And today I just want to express my condolence to the family and just say to the people of the second district that you’ve had a very good representative for a very long time,” said Scott.
Scott said Mr. Holmes’ dedication to youth and youth sports was apparent throughout his service on the Commission and that when Holmes (who was 82) had told Scott earlier this year he would not seek another term on the Commission that he had “tried to talk him out of it.”
Scott also said that flags at County offices buildings will fly at half staff beginning Tuesday until Commissioner’s Holmes’ funeral.
Commissioner Chester Ellis said he had known Mr. Holmes most of his life. “I say to all of the members of his family, I say to all of the members of the second district he did a job well done,” said Ellis.
Commissioner Helen Stone said Mr. Holmes “represented his district beautifully, was very conscientious and was very much a public servant.
Commissioner Dean Kicklighter told us “it’s a really sad day for the entire Coastal empire because Coach Holmes was a very caring man, he dedicated many, many years of his life toward public service and it’s going to be a huge loss. He really worked hard to try to make our community better and he did it with a smile and a calm voice so it’s really sad for the entire community.”
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson who knew Holmes for years through his personal work for Chatham County said
Savannah is better because of Commissioner James Holmes but Savannah will never be the same now that he’s gone from us.”
Mayor Johnson said he also felt deeply for Holmes’ family who could not even be by his bedside because of COVID 19.
Former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson who grew up in the same neighborhood as Mr. Holmes told us “Holmes was an east side boy and I was an east side boy. Coach Holmes is an institution in our community and he will sorely missed. He did an outstanding job of representing the second district on the County Commission. He spent a lifetime devoted to young people and he will be thoroughly missed in our community.”
Green says it is an accurate description of his friend that Mr. Holmes most often had a smile on his face. “He was always a part of my life and I was always a part of his life.. and I’m just appreciative to have had that opportunity to just share my life with him and have him share his life with me,” said Green.