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Former Gainesville Mayor Jim West dies at 82

Longtime city resident was in office during 1996 Olympics

POSTED: May 10, 2014 7:32 p.m.
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Former Gainesville Mayor Jim West died Saturday at age 82.

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Former Gainesville Mayor Jim West died Saturday at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center after battling an undisclosed monthslong illness. He was 82.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville.

Born in 1932, Jimmy Truman West served in the U.S. Air Force, attended the University of West Georgia on the GI Bill, and married the love of his life, Carol Anne Lawler.

West had a distinguished career in many fields, working as a milk delivery man, car dealer and banker.

He was elected to the Gainesville City Council in 1989 and served until 2000, becoming mayor in 1997.

Family members said one of his proudest achievements was serving in office during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games, showcasing Lake Lanier to the world.

Mayor Danny Dunagan remembered West as a “good man” and “dear friend.”

Dunagan said West had appointed him to the city planning and appeals board in the 1990s, launching Dunagan’s career in politics.

“He’s going to be missed,” Dunagan said.

City Councilman Bob Hamrick described West, a longtime resident of Gainesville, as the quintessential family man and public servant.

“He was very dedicated to the city of Gainesville,” Hamrick said.

Councilman George Wangemann, who served alongside West during his tenure on the council, said he always looked up to West as a “natural leader” in the community.

“I recall his jovial nature and his ability to make friends very easily,” Wangemann said.

Sissy Lawson, the first female mayor of Gainesville, said West did as much for the city as anyone else.

“I enjoyed serving with him,” she said. “He will be missed.”

Darryl Smallwood choked up at the thought of his friend’s passing. The two became golfing buddies in the early 1980s and remained close from then on.

“Jim to me was a bigger than life figure,” Smallwood said. “He was a John Wayne type.”

Smallwood described West as reliable and dependable, someone that could always be counted on in times good and bad.

“He had the rare distinction of knowing how to be a father figure but also knowing how to be a friend,” Smallwood said.

The man West was is reflected in an anecdote Wangemann recalled. He said West once rhetorically posed the question: What does the world need more of?

Wangemann said West’s response was simple and remarkable: Love.

West is survived by his wife of 60 years, Carol, two sons and three grandchildren. Son Tommy West was a Gainesville High football star who played and coached at the college level, most notably as Clemson’s head coach in the 1990s.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial contributions be made to Lakewood Baptist Church, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville, GA 30501, or to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hall County, P.O. Box 691, Gainesville, Georgia 30503.



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