Funeral services for longtime Diboll mayor James (Wiley) P. Simms, 73, will be at 2 p.m. today in the Carroway Funeral Home Chapel.
Simms died Monday at his residence. He served as Diboll’s mayor for 22 years.
His daughter, Jamie Parker, reflected on Simms’ life, explaining how he had worked so hard for his community and family. Parker said that if anyone were to remember him for anything, it’s because he was a hero.
“I want people to remember that he was my hero, and not only was a hero to me but hero to the town and this community,” she said. “He inspired me to serve others in the way that he did, as mayor, as a dad, as a husband, as a banker ... he took care of everybody. That was what he did. He taught us to do the same, and I want people to know his story isn’t over. It will live on through us and, most importantly, my son, and the lives of this town, as well as the people he touched.”
Parker said he was a devoted husband to his wife of 50 years, Kathy (Trout) Simms, who was the joy of his world. Kathy also is from Diboll. Parker said she was named after her father, and she also named her son, James, after him as well. James is eight, and Parker said that following Simms’ retirement he worked to be close to his family and friends. He and his wife visited her and her family in their home in The Woodlands as recently as June 29, for Parker’s birthday.
“He and my mom came and we spent whole weekend together as family. I have an eight-year-old named James, after my dad. Just since his retirement that’s what he did, he spent time with family and that was a great weekend.”
Simms was born and raised in Diboll. Parker remembers stories of her father being the star of the football team, class president for Diboll High School and many more accomplishments. She said he left Diboll and claimed he would never move back, but after serving in the U.S. Navy, she said the first thing he did upon coming back to Diboll was to kiss the ground.
“He loved Diboll. Anybody he met for the first time that was first thing told them,” said Parker. “He loved this town more than anything.”
Following his Navy service, Parker says he filled his life with working at the bank, serving the city as a city council member and mayor and found peace hunting on his deer lease. Parker said her dad would often drive around with his family or his “buddies.” It wasn’t always about hunting, but the camaraderie and closeness, she said.
“He loved being there with family or buddies and having that camaraderie he had with his friends and family. Just driving and watching the deer, that was where he found his peace,” said Parker. “God, country, family. That was him.”
He was a member of the First Baptist Church Diboll, had received the “Diboll Day Oustanding Citizen of the Year” award, and served as a school board member for St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School. He also coached youth baseball and served many other organizations.
Current Diboll Mayor John McClain said Simms was dedicated to the city even after retirement, and that he loved the community and was committed to its citizens.
“I worked with James. He was a help for me when I took over as mayor,” McClain said. “I used him as a sounding board for several issues. He was very committed to the city and the people in Diboll. This is evident, as he served 34 years in city politics. There were some tough issues and he was helpful. He was always there if I needed him.”