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Coach Jelks,  circa 1944
Robert  Mixon 'Bobby'  Jelks


'Bobby' Jelks had Hall of Fame
career as coach, player

P-I Staff Writer

Robert M. "Bobby" Jelks, who died at age 91 Thursday at his Paris residence, enjoyed a Hall of Fame career as a football coach and as a football and basketball player.

His name is associated with forging successful football programs during the 1940s and in 1950 at Grove High School,
formerly of Paris. His teams won almost 75 percent of their games (58-20-4) from 1942-50 at the school.

His undefeated 1949 team is still regarded as one of the best teams if not the best in the county's history.

The season concluded with a one-point victory over  Memphis Central High School in the Jackson Exchange Bowl and included a 33-6 win over Jackson Central High
School, which was previously unbeaten and had not allowed any points that season.

United Press International ranked the Grove team No. 1 in the state that year.

When the Paris-Henry County  Sports Hall of Fame was organized in 1994, Jelks was in its first class of inductees.

To date, 13 of Jelks' players have been inducted into the local Sports Hall of Fame.
A native of Tyertown, Miss., Jelks played high school football and basketball at Tylertown's Lexie High School and graduated there.

His accomplishments in football and
basketball at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. Miss., from 1934-36 and other credits later resulted in his
induction into the college's hall of fame in 1989.
Jelks was awarded football and basketball scholarships to play at Union University in
Jackson, where he enrolled in 1936 and earned a degree.

During one spring practice while Jelks was at Union, future Hall of Fame college football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant served
as an assistant coach.

After earning his' bachelor's degree, Jelks coached at Gleason High School, Sallis, Miss., and Lexington High School.
He held a master's degree from George Peabody College in Nashville.

Following his years at Grove, Jelks left to be head football coach and basketball coach at Union.

When Union discontinued football, Jelks returned to Paris where he worked in the insurance industry starting in 1953. He purchased Paris Insurance Agency in 1958.

Another testimony to Jelks' popularity came in 1995, when a room at the Paris-Henry County Heritage Center was named for him.

Jelks was a member of First Baptist
Church, where he was a deacon, Sunday
school teacher and superintendent and a
member of the men's Bible class.
He was a member of the Paris-Henry
County Chamber of Commerce, where
he was former president and was named
its Man of the Year in 1978.

Jelks was a long time member of the Paris Lions Club, where he was one time president.

He also was a member of Paris Masonic
Lodge 108, the Shrine Club, Elks Lodge,
Paris-Henry County Heritage Center and
Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
Jelks received the Excellence in Community Service Award from Daughters
of the American Revolution.
In education, in addition to his teaching and coaching career, he served on the board of trustees at Union for 21 years and the board of trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for 10 years.

As a member of the Save the Grove Tower organization, he helped restore the Tower building. He also served as chairman of the E.W. Grove Endowment Fund.

Jelks was active with Boy Scouts of America, Pop Wamer Football and Little League baseball.
He was a football and basketball official with the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) and a football official with the Ohio Valley Conference.


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Bob Jelks earned respect of others

Former coach had
passion for 'his boys'

What set Robert Jelks apart from other men was his ability to inspire respect.

Whatever he did, whatever he said, wherever he went, others
respected him.

Among the athletes whom he had coached at Grove High School, 'that respect amounted almost - to a cult following. His "players idolized' him,' and he responded with a deep affection ,for them all. The terms "Blue-Devils" and "Coach Jelks" will forever be closely linked.

Jelks lobbied hard and with no apology to get as many of his former players inducted into the Henry County Sports Hall of Fame as possible. If he failed to be as passionate about athletes he had not coached, it was out of his deep love for "his boys."

The respect he earned wasn't limited to athletics. As a business and civic leader, he was straight-arrow, a hard-working and committed man with a brilliant  smile.

Jelks did not suffer fools lightly. He was good at enlisting others to join him in worthwhile civic projects, and he expected them to be as committed, as energetic and as capable of concentrating on the task at hand as he.

An example is the Heritage Center, where he served as a trustee for years and kept an eye on every detail of operations.
When he found something that needed to be done, he didn't wait to bring it before the board and suggest that somebody do something, he drafted a crew of helpers and did it himself.

On one such occasion, well into what passed for retirement - he never really stopped working - when he was becoming physically frail and had two bad knees, he was found high up on a ladder, repairing a damaged ceiling.

Bob Jelks earned the respect of others. He was, a plumb line
of a man, slender and straight and true.

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From the P-I ~ used by permission.
February 17,  2006  Edition