J.W. Harper, son of the late Jake Harper and Rebecca Greer Harper, was born July 8, 1949 in Shelbyville, Tenn. He departed this life peacefully in his sleep on October 7, 2023 at Harbor Hospice in Houston, Texas.
J.W. was an accomplished athlete. He began playing varsity football in the sixth grade while also being a band member. After high school graduation, he broke the color barrier in football at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). On February 6, 2020, he and seven other African American athletes were honored by MTSU for being “True Blue” Pioneers for the university. He also played basketball and ran track and field.
His career as Head Football Coach/Athletic Director and Head Track Coach/Assistant Principal began at Tennessee Preparatory School in Nashville, Tenn.
After moving to Houston in 1981, he was a teacher/coach at two high schools and assistant football coach at Texas Southern University where Michael Strahan was one of his players.
J.W. was a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity which he loved dearly. He and 12 other Kappas were charter members of MTSU. He acquired his Master of Education in Administration and Supervision from Tennessee State University.
As a child, he grew to love God as he witnessed his mother’s love and devotion to the Lord. After moving to Houston, he became a faithful member of New Faith Church, where he served in the Witnessing Ministry, the Marriage Ministry, Men’s Ministry, Voices of Faith and Men’s Choir.
Preceding J.W. in death are his beloved sons, Jarrett Harper and Harvey Harper, and sister Barbara S. Harper Whitener. He is survived by his loving wife, Margaret E. Harper of Houston, Texas; three sisters, Clara (Ed) Heath of Antioch, Ga.; Shirley (Calvin) Vaughn and Rita (Ed) Wilcox both of Murfreesboro; three brothers, James Harper of Shelbyville; Wade (Ann) Harper of Shelbyville; and Ricky (Lisa) Harper of Murfreesboro.