James E. "Sonny" Boatman

April 14, 1930January 20, 2021

James Everett “Sonny” Boatman

A private service for James Everett “Sonny” Boatman, 90, will be held Saturday, January 23, 1 pm at Memorial Funeral Home with burial at the National Cemetery. Due to Covid restrictions there will be no visitation.

Sonny passed peacefully Wednesday, January 20, 2021 after a brief illness. He was born in West Corinth to W E and Luna Johnson Boatman on April 14, 1930. A recently honored alumni of Corinth High School, he attended the Memphis Academy of Art, majoring in interior design. Joining the Air Force before being drafted for Korea in 1950, he was stationed in Tokyo Japan. His duty of charting missions in Korea was a top secret operation. While in Japan he immersed himself in the art and culture; taking art classes, collecting treasures and making lifelong friends.

He returned to Memphis and designed displays for Lowenstein’s Department Store while continuing studies at the Art Academy, then on to Mexico City College. Following a visit to friends in New York City, he moved there with only the promise of an interview at Lord and Taylor Department Store. His “temporary” job with display lasted 20 years during which time he rose from an assistant to director of display before he chose to pursue his own design firm. Quite successful both with commercial and individual clients, he opened his Boatman Gallery in Greenwich Village. His growing knowledge of Spanish, beginning in Mexico City, served him well with co-workers and later as an interpreter. Before leaving New York he purchased and refurbished a brownstone dwelling in Brooklyn where he enjoyed promoting neighborhood preservation and local artists.

In 1992 Sonny returned to Corinth immediately devoting his boundless energy to Corinth Theatre Arts, the Preservation Commission, the Verandah-Curlee house, the Heritage Festival, and his own Corinth edition of Boatman Gallery. His favorite endeavor was as a founding member of the Corinth Art Gallery. He served in many capacities from recruiting volunteers, searching out artists, displaying various media of artwork, advertising exhibits and openings. Also dear to his heart was offering art lessons for children and workshops for adults.

Sonny acquired many awards for his expertise in design, fashion, community activities and was especially proud to be selected as Corinth’s Citizen of the Year. He delighted in letting his beard grow longer to portray Santa during the holiday season. A tradition his brother Cliff started.

In the same determined, adventurous spirit, Sonny decided that assisted living was the place to be. Embracing that decision, he prepared by choosing special keepsakes to surround him in his new apartment. The many treasures accumulated over a lifetime were gathered for a living estate auction and he loved “living his life all over” as each piece was catalogued. That same spirit served him well as he was quarantined off and on since March.

Sonny’s favorite treasures though were his family and his “family of friends”. Preceding him in death are his parents, his siblings Cliff Boatman (Margaret) and Nelda Boatman Parrish (Cliff).

Survivors, who will miss him sorely, are several nephews and nieces Jerry Boatman (Judy), Danny Boatman (Jackie), Lynn Haynie (Tim), LuAnne Parrish, Lanita Addison (Stephen), Amy Davis (Frank, children Frank Archer, Leland and Ella), Kathleen Oliver (Wes), Rebecca Hartfield (Clark, children Nathan and Wyatt), Robert Addison, Chris Addison (Joni), and David Addison; special cousins Kathleen Pett, Wanza Gray, Dianne Papasan (Larry) and Dale Ables; and numerous Johnson/Boatman relatives along with his “family of friends”.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Verandah-Curlee House (P O Box 45, Corinth, MS 38834), Corinth/Alcorn Animal Shelter (3825 Proper Street, Corinth MS 38834), or a charity of choice.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Boatman family.

Arrangements are under the care of Memorial Funeral Home.


  • Memorial Service (Private)

    Saturday, January 23, 2021


James E. "Sonny" Boatman

have a memory or condolence to add?

Regina Mcgrath

January 23, 2021

My deepest heartfelt condolences to the entire Boatman Families:

"Sonny" was "Beautiful Inside and Out!" His Exuberant Personality was Magnetic! I will Cherish our great times over the years. A Real Treasure that brought so many people in his community Kindness and Generosity... He left this World a Better Artistic Place! I am thinking about you and sending love...


January 22, 2021

Many years ago I walked into the Corinth Art Gallery to the delight of meeting a man that would have a great influence on my life. Mr. Sonny showed me the gallery with great exuberance as he described each exhibit with precise detail of the artist and the artwork. After the grand tour I asked if I could volunteer. With a child like squeal he shook my hand repeatedly and expressed his thanks. So the journey began. Over the course of several years I learned through Mr. Sonny's eye the appreciation of artwork, display and often difficult task of closing the deal with artists and buyers alike. I finally convinced him to allow me the job of hanging the artwork but was often met with a gentle disgruntlement and him saying "Lets try this one over here." Of course it always looked better after his influence. I gained incredible amounts of knowledge from him. Not just from his history of travels, jobs and interests but from himself as a person, his feelings and views from politics to restaurants. I NEVER heard him speak unkindly about anyone in the years that I have known him. He was so generous in compliments about everyone, even me. It was a privilege to know him as a person, as an artist, and most importantly a true friend. Rest in peace Mr. Sonny. Your life lives on in the people who's lives you have touched in many forms. I will see you again someday. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your joy, your endless happiness and your willingness to take me under your wing in the world of artwork. You will never be forgotten.

william pounds

January 21, 2021

Sonny was the best. He did more to help out with different projects that anybody I know. He gave it all and will be missed by all who knew him. You will always remain in my heart forever.

William and Elaine Asher

January 21, 2021

We met Sonny a year ago when we helped our sister, Barbara Barrett, move into Dogwood Assisted Living. Sonny knew my sister, but in their time together at Dogwood they became close friends. I am so grateful for all the joy and good counsel he gave to Barb. We are also glad for the little time we spent with Sonny. We so enjoyed his wry sense of humor. We particularly liked his name “ego wall” for the area where he displayed the many portraits he had of himself. He was truly a gentleman in every sense of that word. Our deepest sympathy to his family and the many who loved him.

Vicky Routh

January 21, 2021

I am so sorry to hear thoughts and prayers to the family....I loved Sonny! He will be so missed by all who knew him!

Robin Edwards

January 21, 2021

I am so sorry. My condolences to all who loved him.