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John Howard Patton, 65, of Starkville, passed away on Thursday, December 31, 2020, at Baptist Memorial Hospital Golden Triangle in Columbus, Mississippi. A graveside service in memory of him was held at 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 5th at the Durant (Mizpah) Cemetery in Durant, Mississippi. Interment of his ashes immediately followed. A celebration of life, intended for extended family and friends, former players, and fellow coaches will be held at a later date in Starkville, when it is more appropriate to do so.
John Howard was born August 25, 1955, to Dr. Coy and Sara Howard Patton. He attended Holmes Junior College, Millsaps College and was a graduate of Mississippi State University where he earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education.
He began his coaching career at St. Aloysius High School in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he assisted with football and led baseball coaching duties, winning district coach of the year following his first season. After a year in Starkville completing his Master’s, he moved to the Gulf Coast to coach at Vancleave High School, leading the Bulldogs for seven memorably competitive years. In 1987, Coach Patton returned to Starkville, securing a position with the storied legacy of coaches at Starkville High School. During his extended tenure at SHS, he helped out in a variety of ways, including a brief but enjoyable stint coaching tennis, but he was known most for his 20+ years coaching the defensive secondary for the Yellow Jacket football team, which won three state championships during that span. While proud of the personal and team accomplishments achieved throughout his career, it was the lifelong bonds and friendships created with players and fellow coaches that he treasured the most.
“Coach” was known to be an avid Mississippi State and Starkville High sports fan. He enthusiastically attended Bulldog and Yellow Jacket sporting events year-round, and ensured that his MSU tickets were used in his absence as often as possible, so that State fans could be there to cheer on the Bulldogs. He also enjoyed collecting sports memorabilia and sharing that lifelong hobby with the younger members of his family and close friends. John Howard loved traveling with family for reunions at the beach and the mountains, savoring the memories created there and relishing the chance to feast on fresh seafood, a succulent cheeseburger, or a good ol’ fashioned steak. He believed in loud music, live if possible, and took full advantage of a prized stereo system in his house that could often be heard from the street.
He was a master of telling great stories, remembering the tiniest of details about people and events to bring them to life. Nothing escaped his observations. Even if a story was retold, listeners could not help but laugh along with him at the situations regular folks got themselves into. John Howard never missed an opportunity to listen to others and always sought to find a way to compliment those he encountered. He showed tremendous respect towards his elders and was an attentive son to his parents, exemplifying how to care tenderly for our own in times of vulnerability.
John Howard Patton is survived by his son John Alden Patton and wife Tori Brooke of New Orleans, Louisiana, and two step-daughters, whom he loved as his own, Kristie Massey and husband Drew, and Kimberly Woodward, all of Louisville, Mississippi. One of his greatest joys was being “Pops” to his newest grandson, John Rawson Patton, along with grandkids, Kade, Mason, and Ansley Massey, and Holden, Kylar, Asher, and Briggs Parrish. John Howard was preceded in death by his parents and sisters, Jane Reed Patton Powell and Gina Dobbs Patton.
The family would like to express our heartfelt thanks to those who have so lovingly cared for and checked on John Howard during these past months, especially Kathi Hester, Charlotte Cox, Buddy Staggers, Sam Gilmer, Marcia Flood, the Carlisle family, the Treloar family, and countless others. Your loving care helped us navigate through a challenging time.
Memorials in honor of Coach Patton may be given in lieu of flowers to Mississippi State University’s College of Education, the MSU Department of Biological Sciences, or the Bulldog Club.
Services are under the direction of Nowell-Massey Funeral Home, 724 North Columbus Avenue, Louisville, MS. Memories and condolences may be shared with the family by signing the guest register at

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