The Honorable Jerry Wayne Tillman, 82, passed away on Saturday, February 4, 2023.
Jerry Tillman was a force of life. Appropriately nick-named “Big Gun” in college for his pitching arm, the name suited him for his big personality and zest. Born October 10, 1940, in Chatham County, NC, to the late Leonard Tillman and Delcie Duncan Moore, Big Gun was the eldest son of five siblings.
When his father, Leonard, passed away Jerry was 12 and it was a life-altering moment for him. He had to quickly become the “man” of the house. He took the responsibility seriously and went on to graduate from Elon college in 1963 with a degree in Education and completed his master’s degree in School Administration from UNCG. Jerry was an honorable mention All-American college baseball player. He was recruited to play for the Chicago White Sox but declined that offer to finish his degree and went onto fulfill his life’s purpose as an educator and public servant.
He quickly stole the heart of Marian McVey – a pretty brunette with a spine of steel - in college, and they married on December 21, 1963. They spent 57 years happily married before he lost the love of his life four years ago. And while we mourn the loss of a man that gave so much to us, we also celebrate their reunion. Jerry was not only a dedicated husband but a tremendous father, grandfather, son, brother, and friend.
With more than 60 years of service to Randolph County and the State of North Carolina as an educator and a legislator - Jerry was a true public servant who worked hard to improve the communities he served. His career started as a coach and teacher, and over the years he thrived on the mentorship of students, many of whom stayed in his life for decades. Jerry became a young principal at 27 and went on to become Assistant Superintendent of Randolph County Schools, where he then served as Randolph County Republican Chair before being elected to the North Carolina State Senate in 2002. He was well-respected in the legislature, and quickly became Senate Majority Whip and Education and Finance Chairs. After his retirement from the State Senate, he was appointed to the North Carolina Board of Transportation.
If there was ever a good and faithful servant, it was Jerry. Those lucky enough to know him understood his dedicated purpose and core beliefs. He kept you grounded with faith and common sense. For the legion of friends, family, students, teachers, colleagues, constituents and peers that knew and loved Jerry, we understand what a void his passing brings to our community.
In addition to an illustrious career as a public servant, those that knew him best would tell you he was a virtual encyclopedia of country music – he knew every country song ever written and all the words, and who wrote the song. He was known for singing in every hallway he walked, and he could also quote almost the entire Bible. His love of music, scripture and all things politics provided hours of entertainment.
As a champion of children and their education, there is no shortage of stories of how he touched the lives of those he served. He took that championship mindset seriously once he became an elected official, and always kept his constituents in mind before he made any decision or vote. Someone once said, “If you had Jerry Tillman in your corner, you would be well taken care of”. His family and friends certainly feel better knowing he will be in our corner waiting for us with Marian when our time comes.
Jerry is survived by his children, Jeff Tillman, Patrick Tillman (Julie), Mary Elizabeth Barwick (Ryan), his grandchildren, Melinda Burns (Jesse), Harrison, Emma Freda, Audrey, Sophia, Harper, Julia Ann, Tillman, and Marian “Lane”. His brothers, William Lane Tillman, Steve Moore (Becky), and his sister, Yvonne (David). He is also survived by his life-long best friends, Bill, and Sue Spencer. He was proceeded in death by his wife, Marian McVey Tillman, father, Leonard Tillman, Mother, Delcie Moore, Stepfather, Phillip Moore, and his brother, Eddie Tillman.
Visitation will be held Friday, February 24 from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at Cumby Family Funeral Service in Archdale. A service to celebrate Jerry’s life will be held Saturday, February 25 at 11:00 a.m. at Archdale Friends Meeting. The service will be officiated by Ben Hurley. There will be a reception following the service in the fellowship hall. The committal service will follow at Cane Creek Friends Meeting in Snow Camp.
Memorials in Jerry’s name can be directed to Archdale Friends Meeting, 114 Trindale Road, Archdale, NC 27263.
Archdale Friends Meeting
114 Trindale Road, Archdale NC 27263