Barry Lee Pruitt
April 01, 1944 - February 12, 2017
Barry Lee Pruitt, 72, of Jonesboro died at home on Sunday, February 12, 2017, following a valiant fight against a devastating illness. He was born on April 1, 1944, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Lloyd and Marilee Taylor Pruitt.
He was preceded in death by his parents; grandparents, Earl and Cecil Taylor and Willis and Dona Pruitt; and an infant sister, Rhonda Renee Pruitt.
Barry is survived by his wife of forty years, Billie S. Pruitt; a daughter and son-in-law, Casey and Rob Higgins of Tampa, Florida; three sons, Michael Pruitt and his wife, Shannan, of Jonesboro; Matt Pruitt of Jonesboro; and Taylor Pruitt of Little Rock, Arkansas. He leaves five grandchildren, Morgan Pruitt of Jonesboro; Shelby Pruitt of Charleston, South Carolina; Laney and Landon Higgins of Tampa; and Sydney Pruitt of Paragould. Also mourning his passing are his sister and brother-in- law, Barbara and Dr. Ray Hall; his uncle, Dr. Trice Taylor; his nieces, Dr. Heather Coleman and her husband, Eric; and Dr. Holly Hall all of Jonesboro, and a nephew, Colin Hall of Little Rock. He will be missed by special sisters-in-law, Sylvia Harrington of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and Patricia Jacowski of Wichita, Kansas.
Barry was a product of the Jonesboro Public Schools, starting at what was known as East Elementary, where he first played basketball under Coach O.C. Wyatt. After suffering a compound fracture of his ankle in a baseball game in 1957, he was unsure of his future basketball career at Annie Camp Junior High School. However, with determination and discipline, he recovered and managed to return to the sport he loved, playing on the undefeated basketball team of 1959. He went on to excel at Jonesboro High School as a member of the state championship team of 1962. He also received the Sportsmanship Award for Basketball that year.
He continued his education at Arkansas State University where he earned a BSE with a double major in social studies and physical education, and a MSE plus 30 hours, receiving a certification in administration.
His coaching career began in the 1969-1970 school year at Paragould Junior High School where he remained for three years, earning a region championship in 1971. He then moved to MacArthur Junior High School in Jonesboro where he stayed for four years, coaching the only undefeated junior high team in their history in 1974-1975. He coached the Jonesboro High School freshman team in 1976-1978. His next coaching assignment was at Bald Knob High School from the fall of 1978 to the spring of 1981.
When he was named head coach at his alma mater Jonesboro High School for the 1981-1982 school year, he declared that it was “a dream come true.” He proudly led the Hurricane for twenty-eight years, winning 521 games, which made him the winningest coach in school history. A highlight came in 1994 when his team brought home the first state title for Jonesboro in thirty-two years. “USA Today” described the victory as de’javu since Barry had also won the state title as a player in 1962 at the same site, Barton Coliseum. The 1993-1994 team was ranked number twenty-two in the nation by “USA Today.” That year Barry was named Coach of the Year for Arkansas. The 2005-2006 team was runner-up to the state title. In 2007 the team won the state championship that had been denied to them before, happily donning the shirts that had been brought to the game proclaiming “Finished Business.” Barry added nine conference championships to his career, being named Coach of the Year for the conference nine times. Eight Northeast Arkansas Invitational titles were won by the Hurricane during his tenure. He also had been named to the All-Tournament team as a player at JHS. He had the honor of coaching the All-Star game three times.
Soon after he became head coach at JHS, he started a local tournament originally called the Hurricane Classic which was renamed the Barry Pruitt Hurricane Classic upon his retirement. Many outstanding and well-known players participated in the tournament.
He completed his forty-year coaching career with 743 wins. Mayor Harold Perrin presented him the Key to the City of Jonesboro in recognition of his achievements and contributions to the city. The mayor also declared the day to be “Barry Pruitt Day.” The Downtown Tip-Off Club in North Little Rock named him in January 2010 as a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to high school basketball in Arkansas. He was humbled to be named to the Arkansas High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
According to Jonesboro Superintendent Kim Wilbanks, “Coach Pruitt is a man who had a dream and lived out that dream. He touched countless lives in his many years in the Jonesboro Schools. He is a winner whose legacy will live on for many years to come.”
He was a member of Southwest Church of Christ, the Jonesboro chapter of SAR, and the Beechcreek Hunting Club. He enjoyed hunting and fishing and had a keen interest in history. Devoted to his family, he was also a kind and loyal friend with a tender heart and a sensitive spirit. He left the world a better place and will be missed.
A funeral service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 16, 2017, at Southwest Church of Christ with Dr. Jimmy Adcox officiating. The burial will follow at Jonesboro Memorial Park Cemetery with the active pallbearers being Glen Bryant, David Daniel, Jim Dixon, Colin Hall, Ray Hall, Lewis Johnson, Dale Phillips, and Erik Mathes.
The visitation will be held prior to the service starting at 12:00. The honorary pallbearers will be Barry’s teammates from the state championship team of 1962 including Andy Anderson, Jim Burnett, James Coy, John Dickson, Dick Duke, Jim Fowler, Elbert Frazier, and Kenny Johnson. Also acting as honorary pallbearers are the classmates of the Jonesboro High School Class of 1962, Lance Taylor, Dr. Matt Garner and all former players, Atwood Bell, Jim Ellis, Jim DeVazier, Terry Trotter, Harold Wilson, Dr. Steve Woodruff, and Dr. Chris Rowlett.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Jonesboro High School Athletic Department for the Barry Pruitt Memorial at 2506 Southwest Square, Jonesboro, Arkansas 72401.