Snake-handling pastor remembered by local friend - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Snake-handling pastor remembered by local friend

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Pastor Jamie Coots with snakes in his Kentucky church. AP photo Pastor Jamie Coots with snakes in his Kentucky church. AP photo

A Kentucky snake-handling pastor died Saturday from a rattlesnake bite.

Pastor Jamie Coots, who starred in the National Geographic reality show "Snake Salvation" died Saturday after he was bitten by a snake during a service.

As it turns out, Coots has friends in Chattanooga.

For 25 years, UTC Professor and Serpent-Handling Historian Ralph Hood has called Jamie Coots a friend. He spoke with Channel 3 Monday before driving to Middlesboro, Kentucky for Coots' funeral.

"They knew from day one that this could happen and they accept it," Dr. Hood said.

Dr. Hood said he has no doubt Jamie Coots and his family are at peace. The 42-year-old had been bitten eight times before Saturday but this latest bite was lethal. And Coots died after refusing medical treatment.

"Jamie Coots' main argument and I'm sure he'd said this right now is to die being obedient to the Lord," he said.

Coots' YouTube page includes several services from 2011. There's singing, dancing, preaching, and handling of snakes including rattlesnakes: the type of snake that killed Coots.

"It'd be interesting to look at the background of this particular snake," said Chattanooga Attorney Chris Jones.

Chattanooga Attorney Chris Jones once represented Coots. The TWRA cited the preacher last year for transporting five poisonous snakes across state borders. He ended up pleading guilty in order to keep his sacramental serpent boxes.

"His family came first, he believed in his constitutional right to religion," Jones said.

It's a right Coots took to his grave.

And it's a right his son plans to carry to his.

Until the day that I die, I'll carry snakes to this church. And I hope my children, they carry snakes too," Cody Coots told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR.

Coots' 21-year-old son Cody said he's taking over for his dad and Dr. Hood said that's exactly how Jamie Coots would want it.

"He'd been on record saying and he knew he'd been a good father when he saw his children handling serpents," Dr. Hood said.

Coots isn't the first pastor to die from a snake bite. Most recently, a West Virginia pastor died during a 2012 service.

Dr. Hood said Coots' funeral is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday in Middlesboro with visitation beforehand.

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