Felix “Zoo” James – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Football Coach, 1947-97
Gaudet H.S./Landry H.S./Xavier University
Felix “Zoo” James compiled a winning percentage of .670 in 19 years of coaching football at Gaudet and Landry High School, where his teams won six city championships, one state title and one state co-championship.
He was honored as New Orleans Coach of the Year eight times and Louisiana Coach of the Year once.
A 1937 graduate of McDonogh 35 High School and a 1941 graduate of Xavier University, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps after graduation and served as a medic in Italy during World War II with the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group. He received a master’s degree from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) after the war.
He returned to New Orleans and worked at Gaudet High School serving as a teacher and acting principal until the school closed in 1951. He then moved on to teach at L.B. Landry High School on the West Bank of New Orleans. He also served as the coach of the track and football teams, winning two state championships, three city championships and five district championships in 15 years as head football coach. He also won three track state titles (1951, 1954 and 1956).
In 1966, James was appointed to coordinate federal programs by the city’s public schools system. After recruiting white and black college graduates as teachers and special-education evaluators, he was named the system’s first African-American personnel director. He was named Director of Athletics for the entire New Orleans School System in 1982.
He served as the director of athletics for Xavier University from 1990-97. He passed away on September 18, 2013 at the age of 93.
See Vimeo interview with Jones.
Obituary courtesy of Xavier Athletics:
Felix “Zoo” James, Xavier University of Louisiana’s director of athletics from 1990-97, died Wednesday (Sept. 18, 2013) following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 93.
Basketball flourished during his XU tenure, with the Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets recording six 20-victory seasons apiece and combining for six appearances at the NAIA Division I National Championships. XU’s women won first-round games at nationals four consecutive seasons, and the Nuggets extended that streak a year after James’ retirement.
James also administered in 1994-95 the return of men’s tennis and cross country to intercollegiate status and the introduction of women’s tennis and cross country. He hired Dannton Jackson, XU’s current head coach of men’s basketball and interim athletics director, as a women’s basketball assistant coach and later gave him the cross country duties. Alma Henderson, the department’s longtime administrative assistant II, also worked for James.
James was a 1941 graduate of Xavier who worked his way through XU as a manager on the men’s track and field team. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps after graduation and served as a medic in Italy during World War II with the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group.
He was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 after winning two state championships, three city championships and five district championships in 15 years as head football coach at L.B. Landry High School on the New Orleans West Bank. He also taught at Landry and coached track and basketball.
Prior to Landry, James worked six years at Gaudet School before it closed in 1951. After his Landry tenure, James worked for the Orleans Parish Public Schools personnel department as coordinator for certification and, ultimately, as its director.
James was born in Gerard, Ga., on March 11, 1920, and moved to New Orleans with his family at age 5. He was nicknamed Zoo because of his childhood love of animal cookies. He was a 1937 graduate of McDonogh 35 High School, and he received a master’s degree from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) after the war. James relocated to Memphis, Tenn., in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.