Thomas Wood Jennings, 58, of Wiggins, died Friday, February 16, 2013.
Born July 21, 1954, Mr. Jennings grew up in his home town of Richmond, Va., and graduated from The Collegiate School, a private school, where he was captain of the undefeated state championship high school football team and was awarded All Metro, All State Honors. At his death, he held the school’s shot put record. Recruited by numerous universities’ and colleges’ football programs, Mr. Jennings chose the University of Mississippi where he played tackle for the Ole Miss Rebels while earning a bachelor of public administration degree, which he received in 1977. He was asked by a number of professional teams to enter the NFL draft, but a college football knee injury prevented his doing so.
He had a distinguished career in law enforcement, beginning as a patrolman and detective for the Gulfport Police Department from 1979-1984. In 1983, he attended the Louisiana State University Law Enforcement Institute, where he served as president of his class and was honored for achieving the highest academic average. That same year, the Gulfport Jaycees named him the city’s Outstanding Young Law Enforcement Officer. Mr. Jennings received an MS degree in criminal justice from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1984 while simultaneously working as an investigator for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department. In 1985, he moved to the Harrison County District Attorney’s office, also as an investigator. He transitioned from active law enforcement to the classroom when he joined the faculty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jefferson Davis Campus as a criminal justice instructor, a position he held for many years. Later, he coached football in the George and Harrison county school districts.
A lifelong athletics enthusiast, he developed a special interest in Scottish Games and in 2006, placed sixth in the World Championship Highland Games in Inverness, Scotland.
Mr. Jennings was preceded in death by his father, George Wood Jennings, of Richmond, and by his niece, Lee Taylor Jennings, of New York City.
He is survived by his wife, Joy Newton Jennings, and his daughter, Stephanie Carol Jennings, both of Wiggins; his mother, Betty Sovern Graham, of Richmond; his brother, Albert Arthur Jennings and sister-in-law, Gay Clark Jennings; and his nephew, Samuel Wood Jennings, all of Sagamore Hills, Ohio.
A memorial Eucharist will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Gulfport. Visitation will be held in the church from 2 p.m. until service time.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 1909 15th St., Gulfport, MS 39501.