The Legacy of Representative Jim Coley
It is difficult to write about the life and legacy of Jim Coley, and these words still feel like they come up short. He is known by many names: husband, father, friend, state representative and more. Rachel will never forget the first chat she had with him - almost 10 years ago - sitting in Starbucks on Kirby Whitten as they dialogued the next round of counter-trafficking bills to consider. This is how he always seemed to Rachel - relatable, kind, steadfast and interested in leveraging his voice and position for the most good - especially for the vulnerable in our communities.
One of the titles bestowed on him over the years was the “Grandfather of Tennessee’s Anti-Trafficking Laws.” This title was most frequently and lovingly used by one of his colleagues, Representative Debra Moody. This may not be the most used title by those closest to him, but we hope this is the name and legacy our state will remember for generations to come. This is the aim and impact of law - generations - and our state is better for the role and conviction of his efforts to this end.
Rep. Coley was a pioneer and steadfast champion on behalf of the poor, the vulnerable, and the exploited in Tennessee. His legacy is one one of true justice: he led Tennessee in enacting laws which bring hope to trafficked children and adults, established severe criminal penalties for human traffickers, and for the first time created meaningful consequences for those who purchase sex with children. Coley was a great leader and political titan who rallied his colleagues and constituents further along toward a world without modern slavery. We extend our deepest condolences to his family.