Vigil remembers slain Atlantic Coast High teacher

Vivian James, 49, taught Duval County students for more than 2 decades

Loved ones and former students held a candlelight vigil to honor the Atlantic Coast High School teacher who was found dead inside her Westside home one week ago.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A vigil was held Sunday to remember a beloved Atlantic Coast High School teacher who was found dead late last month in her Westside home.

Dozens came together at 5 p.m. at Friendship Fountain on Jacksonville’s Southbank to pray and light candles in memory of Vivian James.

James, who was described as a bubbly, dancing, passionate teacher, had taught Duval County students for more than two decades. Neighbors said she always went out of her way to help others.

A vigil to remember Vivian James was held Sunday at Friendship Fountain. (WJXT)

Police said it’s believed the 49-year-old woman, who lived by herself, had been dead for 48 hours before her body was found the morning of Dec. 28 in a home on Glen Alan Court near 103rd Street. Investigators told News4Jax the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was notified after a friend came to check on her, and that person called 911. According to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office records, her death is being investigated as a murder.

“I was just, like, shocked,” said Brianna Banks, a former student. “Who would do that?”

James taught Duval County students for more than two decades. Several current and former students said she was more than just a teacher.

“Being a teacher is more than just teaching,” said former student Dabria Leonard. “You have to be there for the kids because if we all, if you seen everybody out here, they all said that she was like a mother. She was exactly like a mother to all of us.”

Loved ones came from as far away as New York to help honor a woman they say was the definition of joy and love.

“I think she just wanted everyone in the community to just keep living life to the fullest,” said Sandra Meadows, James’ best friend. “I sincerely think that her killer is going to be caught and brought to justice and she wouldn’t want anyone to be afraid or not to live because of this tragedy.”

Atlantic Coast High students will return from winter break on Tuesday. According to the Atlantic Coast High School PTSA, grief counselors will available to students and faculty on campus this week.

Atlantic Coast High would like to create a permanent memorial for James in the school’s courtyard. Donations are being collected to help build a shrine for the beloved Stingray. The excess money will be donated to her family. Click here to donate to the GoFundMe account created to help fund the memorial and for James’ family.

A celebration of life will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Atlantic Coach High on R.G. Skinner Parkway.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).

About the Authors:

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.