Longtime state Sen Jerry Tillman dies

Senator Jerry Tillman via the N.C. General Assembly website

RALEIGH — Jerry Tillman, a longtime state Sen. from Randolph County, died on Saturday, Feb. 4. He was 82.

Tillman, a retired public schoolteacher, administrator and coach, was first elected to the state Senate in 2002. He resigned from the chamber in 2020. He served a total of nine terms.

Tillman built a reputation as a staunch advocate for his community, including Randolph Hospital and the North Carolina Zoo.

He was a strong proponent of K-12 schools and a leader on education issues, given his background in the Randolph County school system. During his time in the majority, the legislature overhauled teacher and principal pay scales, resulting in substantial raises.

Over his nine terms in the Senate, Tillman emerged as a chamber leader. He served as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education, and Majority Whip.

Often referred to as “coach” by his colleagues, Sen. Tillman’s love of baseball and music was well known. He would often recite songs to people who stopped by his office.

Sen. Tillman said in his retirement announcement in 2020, “It has been a pleasure serving the people that I have been so honored to represent over the years. My greatest joy in serving has always come from helping people with their everyday needs.”

His wife, Marian, died in 2019.