Jimmy Gentry was a soldier, teacher and coach who lived in Franklin his entire life. Born in 1925, he was one of eight children that grew up in a working-class family during the depression. After high school graduation, he left for the European Theatre of World War II and he returned home a changed man. He was awarded two bronze stars for his actions during the invasion of Germany and was among the first Allied troops to enter Dachau, the infamous Nazi death camp. You can read more about his time in the war and his transition back into home life in his book An American Life. Shortly after his return, Jimmy married his high school sweetheart, Rebecca Channell, and they had three sons. The family lived in downtown Franklin initially, then on Murfreesboro Road and eventually moved to Rebecca’s family farm in the mid-1970s. Jimmy lived on the farm until his passing with both of his sons and their wives. He had five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Jimmy decided to further his education at Tennessee Tech University but he later transferred to Peabody College to be able to coach football at his alma mater Franklin High School because he “thought that sounded like something I would like to do.” He continued coaching into his eighties. While in college, he majored in education, and one of his most significant accomplishments was shaping and molding students in Williamson County to become contributing citizens. Jimmy has mentored and challenged local young men and women throughout his career as a teacher and coach. Many of his students have gone on to prominent positions locally and nationally. He has always been a hard worker and has always advocated for others to do the same. The thing that inspired Jimmy to work harder, be better and do more was at the age of twelve when he lost his father and had to start providing for the children who were left at home. He helped contribute to the family through hunting, fishing and trapping with his brothers. If he could give any advice to his younger self, he says: “I might suggest that he consider those who have been through a lot of life before him. That they know things he does not and to always listen well to your elders. I’d say to always consider your physical body as something God gave you and to take care of. I took care of myself by not smoking or drinking, while everyone else around me was. I have tried to eat well, go to bed early and keep a positive outlook on life. I would also say to always keep looking around you. Everything you see in nature and people was created by God. He made it all and He deserves the credit.”
When asked what makes Williamson County special to him, he responded: “Well, that is hard to answer because there is so much special about Williamson County. Just look around at the terrain and all the hills and valleys. It is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, besides Austria. Another thing is that we are so close to the big city of Nashville for commerce, and yet still out here in the country. Also, all of the history here is very interesting. Lastly, the people of Williamson County have traditionally been very warm, Christian, friendly people.”
Here at YW, we cannot forget the reason Jimmy is on this list once again. When Coach Gentry was asked what he thinks it means to be a gentleman he responded: “Well, being a gentleman, you have the feeling that you are not just a human being, you are a gentleman. I think mostly it means having respect for those around you. You can talk to someone for just a few minutes and know if they are a gentleman, by the words they use and how they present themselves. Please, thank you, sir and ma’am lets you know they were raised right and to be respectful of others. Opening the door for women? Well, you should not even have to think about that. All these things are a part of being a gentleman.”