Farewell To The Alligator Man: An Opry Family Affair

A week ago today, Grand Ole Opry member, Jimmy C. Newman made his way home to the choir in the sky. I was lucky enough to see him perform at the Opry on several occasions and he left a lasting impression on me. The news of his passing left me with a heavy heart.

Born and raised just outside of Big Mamou, Louisiana, Jimmy C. Newman delighted fans all over the world with his unique brand of Cajun Country music. He was proud of his heritage. In fact, it’s been said that the C in Jimmy C. Newman stood for cajun. His enthusiasm was infectious and you’d be hard-pressed to resist the urge to jump up from your seat and dance when Jimmy was on stage. He became a member of The Grand Ole Opry in 1956 and took great pride in playing there often. He loved the Opry and the Opry loved him right back.

On Wednesday I attended the public memorial service held for Jimmy at the Ryman auditorium and what I saw filled me up with so much joy. It was undoubtedly a sad occasion to congregate, and I shed quite a few tears, but the room overflowed with love as folks shared their stories and memories of their dear friend. There were several Opry members in attendance and what really struck a chord with me was the overwhelming sense of family. It’s clear that the Opry and all of its members are a family in and of itself, but it goes even deeper than that. You could sense how much they all genuinely cared not only about their fellow Opry member, Jimmy, but also about his entire family. Many of the stories told that day included his lovely wife, Mrs. Mae and it was obvious that the Opry family would be in her corner as she faced this heartbreaking loss. Watching them interact with one and other with such kindness made me proud to be so madly in love with the Opry and I felt honored to be there.

As I sat in the mother church of country music, listening to Vince Gill sing Go Rest High On That Mountain, I began to marvel at the ripple effect of a life. I never met Jimmy C. Newman and I won’t get the chance to tell him what he meant to me, but he will always be a part of some of my fondest Grand Ole Opry memories and his music will always bring a smile to my face. AA-EEE, Jimmy!

“Oh, how we cried the day you left us, we gathered round your grave to grieve wish I could see the angels faces, when they hear your sweet voice sing” - Vince Gill, Go Rest High On That Mountain

Thanks for reading!I’ll see ya at the Opry!