James “Jimmy” Leroy Pickens

Published 6:35 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2018

James “Jimmy” Leroy Pickens, formerly of Vicksburg, died peacefully in his home surrounded by family on his 83rd birthday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Brandon.

Jimmy asked that we celebrate his life with a Dixieland Jazz Memorial Service at Riles Funeral Home in Vicksburg on Saturday, Oct. 27, with family and friends gathering at 2:30 p.m. and the service beginning at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, a memorial may be given to Hawkins United Methodist Church Building Fund, 3736 Halls Ferry Rd, Vicksburg, MS 39180.

Mr. Pickens was born in Jackson in 1935 and moved to Greenville in 1948, returning to Jackson in 1951. He graduated from Central High School in 1953. Mr. Pickens enrolled in Millsaps College and also attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where he met his wife-to-be of 62 years, Ethel Lagrone of Vicksburg.

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In 1955, Mr. Pickens joined the United States Air Force where he served honorably as an instructor at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. He then worked as a field engineer for IBM and spent most of his time in Laurel.

In 1963, he joined Waterways Experiment Station and worked on many high level projects around the world related to national defense and domestic infrastructure. During his time with “The Lab,” he received many awards, including Department of the Army Research and Development Achievement Award for 1992. He retired in 1993 after over 30 years of service.

As an acclaimed Dixieland Jazz trumpet player, Mr. Pickens was well-known throughout the region as “The man with the golden horn.”

During his career he played in clubs and concert halls with some of the greatest performers in the history of jazz, from Los Angeles to Chicago, Atlantic City to Florida and New Orleans to Memphis.

In Vicksburg, he was a popular performer and band leader, playing regularly at Tuminello’s, Maxwell’s Restaurant, Jacques Cafe in the Park, and Top of the River, as well as many private and public events.

An excellent golfer, Mr. Pickens enthusiastically played throughout the region and when visiting friends and family around the U.S., or traveling on business.

Priorities of Mr. and Mrs. Pickens, along with their three children, included their close family ties and their many deep and lifelong friends, whom they thoroughly enjoyed entertaining in their home.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Roy Z. and Dorothy Sessums Pickens of Jackson and his grandson, James Patrick Pantenburg of Bend, Oregon.

Survivors include his wife, Ethel Lagrone Pickens and children, James (Buzz) Leroy Pickens, Jr., Debbie Pickens Pantenburg, and Patti Pickens Peets, and grandchildren, John Pickens, Ashley Peets LaBarre, Daniel Pantenburg, and Mary Pantenburg of Bend, Oregon, and great-granddaughter, Anamarie Rivers LaBarre, his sister, Dorothy Pickens McElroy and brother, Andrew Davis Pickens.