• 61°
franklin county times
Retired Circuit Judge John Jolly

John D. Jolly – Nov. 21, 2023

John D. Jolly, 86, of Russellville, passed away Nov. 21 at his residence. He was born June 2, 1937.

John Jolly meant many things to many people but will always be admired most for his faith in God, his heart for others and his extraordinary discipline throughout life’s trials. 

If there is anything John would want remembered about him, it’s that he loved God with all his heart, soul and mind. John was always a churchgoer, but after a Lay Witness Mission in the early 1970s, he became a born-again Christian with a fire to spread the gospel.

He decided to do this specifically through mission work. With two strong Christian friends (Ralph Bone and Horace Sanders), he founded Laymen Unlimited, a non-denominational organization to introduce lay persons to foreign missions through short-term work projects overseas. They ministered in countries throughout the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America in the 1970s and 1980s. 

In addition to his overseas ministry, John was an active member and church elder for many years in the First Presbyterian Church in Russellville and later in the First Presbyterian Church in Tuscumbia. He developed many lifelong friendships through these two church homes. 

John was born and raised in Gadsden, Ala. After watching his parents struggle, he realized at an early age that the key to unlocking the doors to one’s future was a good education. He became the first in his family to finish high school and college, later graduating from law school at the University of Alabama.

He came to Russellville in 1967 and served as district attorney for Franklin County from 1967-1983 and as Franklin County’s Circuit Judge from 1983-2001. About his career, John often joked that he “served 33 1/3 years with no time off for good behavior.” 

The opportunities that getting an education afforded him made John a strong advocate for others to do likewise. In 2000, he founded There’s a Way, a non-profit foundation that awarded merit and need-based scholarships to high school seniors in Franklin County. This foundation was John’s passion project throughout his retirement years until 2018. 

In the 1980s, as an outlet for the stressors of life, John discovered jogging. Eventually this turned into a passion for long-distance running, which became a defining part of his life. He ran his first marathon at the age of 55 and developed a practice of running about three marathons a year. Before he hung up his running shoes at the age of 67, John ran 32 marathons in places as far-flung as Death Valley, California and as prestigious as the Boston Marathon. 

John received numerous honors for his public service, but the act of giving meant more to him than any award he ever received. His inspirational motto was “Do all the good you can for all the people you can for as long as you can!” 

John was preceded in death by five days, by his beloved wife, Jeanette H. Jolly, as devoted to him in life as they now are devoted to one another in death. He was also preceded in death by his parents, Joe C. Jolly and Ara M. (Walker) Jolly; brother, James Vernon Jolly; mother-in-law, Lena (Hamilton) Hester; and father-in-law, W.M. Hester.  

He leaves to cherish his memory, daughter, Ginger E. Jolly; niece, Leann Kennedy; great-nephew, Josh White; and other extended family and friends.  

The visitation for both John and Jeanette will be Nov. 26 from 12-2 p.m. at Spry Memorial Chapel in Russellville, with the funerals for both directly following. Dr. Randy Thompson will officiate. The burials will be at Franklin Memory Gardens. 

The family would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Rick Suddith, Joe Fine, David Scruggs, Danny McDowell, Becky Hester, Kay Drummond, Ann Mills, Gayle Davis, Faye Baker and Amy Davis for their faithful friendship and devotion throughout the years.

The family would also like to thank Dr. Sally H. Houston for her medical guidance, along with Greta Boutwell, Tiona Estavan, Bonnie Dean, Jenny Skipworth, Lorie Knight, Jessica McCray and other staff at Hospice of North Alabama for their commitment and care. 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to your charity of choice. 

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss Northwest Shoals

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss UNA

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: In memoriam – Monuments honor the fallen of Franklin

High School Sports

RHS senior chosen as Bryant-Jordan Region 8 Scholar winner

High School Sports

Russellville High School ladies soccer team members participate in annual Night to Shine

News

Russellville High School Scholars Bowl team qualifies for state tournament

News

Vina kindergarteners connect with lots of other classes

News

PCHS JAG student places in district conference

Features

Wedding Spotlight: Layne and Frank Edwards

Franklin County

RHS senior competes at state DYW competition

News

Extension, 4-H present free resume workshop

Franklin County

Franklin County has lots to love

High School Sports

Russellville High School honors alum Luther Tiggs with special night of basketball

News

BTCPA announces second production of season

News

RMS holds annual state assessment celebration

Franklin County

Red Bay welcomes new city attorney

Franklin County

Attempted traffic stop leads to high-speed vehicle pursuit, wreck 

Franklin County

Vehicle pursuit ends in wreck, arrest 

News

RFD, RHS collab promotes job readiness, community safety

Franklin County

Local students named to Mississippi State University’s fall 2023 President’s List

News

Russellville Elementary features among U.S. News & World Report best elementary schools

News

RCS receives recognition as finalist for national award

News

Plans get underway to raise funds for cancer research in memory of Bedfords

Franklin County

PHOTOS: Freezing temperatures make way for fun

x