James “Coach” Mickey Linder passed away at Sanctuary Hospice House on November 25, 2018, at the age of 72. He was born on August 15, 1946, to Cliff and Lucille Linder of Corinth. A career educator, Coach Linder retired from the Tupelo Public School District after 40 years where he worked at Milam, Carver and Tupelo High schools. He was a graduate of Corinth High School, Northeast Mississippi Community College, and the University of Mississippi where he obtained a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Education degree.
Coach Linder successfully coached junior high football and basketball for 28 years and spent 40 years with the district, including time in administration. He is well known for the achievements of his ninth-grade football team, a 190-15-2 record at Carver with 15 undefeated seasons during his tenure including 40- and 44-game winning streaks. His seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball team compiled a 426-30 record with 11 undefeated seasons and incredible 40- and 46-game winning streaks. For these accomplishments he was inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame, Mississippi’s highest coaching honor, in 2014. Testimonies from former players, many of whom became outstanding college and professional players, all have a familiar refrain, “He worked us hard, but as hard as he was on us, we knew he cared about us.” At the TPSD Booster Club’s Kick-Off Dinner Honoring Coach Mickey Linder, Mayor Jason Shelton and former pro football player Russell Copeland spoke about how Coach’s drive, determination, and work ethic motivated his players on the field while providing moral guidance off the field. Mayor Shelton presented Coach Linder a key to the City of Tupelo and declared August 24, 2018, as Mickey Linder Day. Coach Linder’s relationship with his players was definitely the key to his success.
In 2002, Coach was named Tupelo’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year. He was described at that event as “an individual who has quietly touched and steadily guided hundreds, if not thousands, of young people toward meaningful lives.” In 2014, Coach received the Martin Luther King, Jr., Drum Major Leadership Award for performing extraordinary everyday acts of service with reliability and commitment in the community.
As an administrator, Coach is best known for the many encouraging letters, notes, and words that he penned to staff, teachers, students, and parents. Every teacher with whom he worked has words of praise for Coach. One former student and teacher expressed it well, “Generations of Tupelo students will never forget the example he set for us in the classroom, on the field, and in life.” Many others wrote, “Coach sent a letter to my mom and dad when I taught with him. They kept it until they passed away. It meant the world to them.”
Coach Linder was a member of the West Main Church of Christ where he taught numerous youth Bible classes and was a major Christian influence on many young lives. His well-worn Bible was his compass, and he lived each day as a light to so many. He expected his class to have read their lesson and answered all the questions. If they didn’t, he lovingly reprimanded them in positive, encouraging way.
Coach Linder is predeceased by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Vicky Linder; her three sons, Sam Graves (Nicole) of Tupelo; grandchildren, Harrison and Mary Hayden; Will Graves (Amber) of Mantachie; grandchildren, Macie, Addison, and Anna Katherine; Todd Graves (Leigh Ann) of Houlka; grandchildren, Paige, Payne, and Paxton; grandson, Bryson Welford; brother, Bill Linder (Genie) of Collierville, TN; nephews, Geoff Linder (Talar); nephews, Reed, Bennett, and Davis; Britt Linder (Holly); nephew, Wade, and niece, Katie; and Travis Beard, a lifetime colleague and dear friend who stood by Mickey on life’s journey.
Holland Funeral Directors is in charge of the arrangements. Visitation will be held at the Holland Funeral Home in Tupelo, Tuesday, November 27, 2018, from 4:00-7:00. A memorial service will be held at the West Main Church of Christ, 2460 West Main St., on Wednesday, November 28, at 11:00 with Brother Russ Crosswhite officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Mickey Linder Scholarship Fund, Tupelo School’s Learning Foundation, % Mickey Linder Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 557, Tupelo, MS 38802; the West Main Church of Christ Building Fund, 2460 West Main St., Tupelo, MS 38801; or Sanctuary Hospice House, P.O Box 2177, Tupelo, MS 3880. Remembrances and expressions of sympathy for the family may be offered online at https://www.hollandfuneraldirectors.com.