Dr. Jimmy Welch Bilbo

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Dr. Jimmy Welch Bilbo, 89, of Cleveland, passed away on Friday, July 10, 2020, in a local hospital following a short illness.

He was born in Poplarville, Miss., to the late Cyrus Warren Bilbo and Ida Rosetta Carroll, the eighth of nine children.

As a young man, Jimmy was an evangelist and licensed minister in the Church of God. He was a charter member of Westmore Church of God, where he had served briefly as the Sunday School Superintendent.

Dr. Bilbo completed the bachelor of arts from Lee College, the master’ degree from George Peabody College for Teachers, and the Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi.

He was best known for his impact on the early development of the teacher education program at Lee College in the 1960s through the 1980s, serving at the Director of Teacher Education and the Dean of the Division of Education.

In the heart of his professional career, Dr. Bilbo helped many teachers and administrators in Bradley County in their preparation for the teaching profession.

Upon his retirement from Lee, Dr. Bilbo was named Professor Emeritus of Education. The Bilbo Excellence in Student Teaching Award was established to commemorate his love for his students. He was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Helen DeVos College of Education in 2014. He was also inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Lee University.

After retirement, Dr. Bilbo focused his work on the Bilbo family farm, taking classes to earn the designation, Master Cattleman.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his siblings: Margaret Morgan, Grace Baughman, Cecil Bilbo, Ray Bilbo and Neville Bilbo.

He is survived by his loving wife of 70 years, Carolyn Jean Dupree Bilbo; three children: Dr. Deborah Murray and husband, Danny, of Cleveland, Dr. Jimmy Wayne Bilbo and wife, Missy, of Cleveland, and Dr. Tammy Johnson and husband, Greg, of Cleveland; nine grandchildren: Kristen Grisham (Heath), Lauren Garner (Philip), Morgan Mizer (Charlie), Britt Murray (Amanda), Michelle Mazzolini (Tim), Julie Bilbo (Linie Person), Jessica Presley (Justin), Dr. Olivia Chapman (Richard), and Seth Johnson; 20 great-grandchildren; one brother, Paul Bilbo (Betty) of Poplarville, Miss; two sisters: Mary Gilmore of Philadelphia, Pa., and Alma Castleberry of Poplarville, Miss.

A private graveside service will be held this week with Dr. Paul Conn and Dr. Daniel Black officiating. A white dove release ceremony and the playing of bagpipes will conclude the service.

A celebration of Dr. Bilbo’s life will be held at a later date this fall in the chapel at Lee University.

A drive-by visitation will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 16, 2020, at the Higginbotham Administration Building circle on Ocoee Street at Lee University.

In lieu of flowers the family invites you to contribute to the Jimmy W. Bilbo Scholarship, which was established for education majors at Lee University. 

We invite you to send a message of condolence and view the Bilbo family guestbook at www.ralphbuckner.com.

Ralph Buckner Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of the arrangements.

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