Friends, family say goodbye to Pastor Jamie Coots

Family and friends said goodbye to a well-known, and often controversial, Kentucky pastor Tuesday night.

Jamie Coots, 42, died Saturday evening after a church service. Coots gained notoriety as a pentecostal preacher that handled snakes as a form of worship. After surviving several previous snake bites, a bite on Saturday evening killed him.

Coots starred on the reality show "Snake Salvation" alongside Pastor Andrew Hamblin, from LaFollette. The National Geographic show profiled the pastors' efforts to keep their snake-handling religious traditions alive.

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Hamblin was recently in court for TWRA citation for having venomous snakes.

Loved ones packed Creech Funeral Home in Middlesboro, Kentucky Tuesday evening.

"I know four generations of Coots family," said Bill Bisceglia, a family friend and manager of the funeral home.

"Jamie had one of the slyest, driest sense of humors. He was a very funny man but a man of great faith. He said what he meant and he meant what he said, and that was in all aspects of his life," Bisceglia said.

Bisceglia said several people came from out of state to pay their respects to Coots, including representatives of churches from Virginia and Tennessee.

Outside of church, Coots also drove a bus for the local school district. His fellow drivers remember his good humor and patience with the children.

"He was a great guy – just funny, just hilarious," said Terry Whited.

"We missed him this morning at McDonalds where he always went with us. We're going to miss him."

Despite his national recognition, Coots kept deep roots in Appalachia. Even though his style of worship was often controversial, friends say the pastor's legacy will always be his strong faith.

"If you didn't agree with him he didn't try to argue with you, he didn't try to force his beliefs down your throat," Biscelgia said. "He believed what he believed and he believed it until the day he died."

He leaves behind a wife, two children, a granddaughter and his father.


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