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Remembering an old influence

W.H. Black passed away on Sept. 17. "Dub" as his many friends called him was retired from the Sylvania Police Department where he served 28 years as chief. I came to know him during my five years of living, teaching and coaching in Screven County from 1984-1989.

Chief Black was the epitome of loyalty to his family, but the thing that I remember him most for was his loyalty to his coach. His coach was my boss, Sandy Hershey. Coach Hershey served two tenures as Screven County's head football coach. The first was when W.H. was in high school in the 1950s and again when I worked for him. Coach Hershey later served as mayor of Sylvania after his retirement.

Playing fullback for the Gamecocks under Coach Hershey, the story goes that W.H. once developed a mild case of fumblitis. Coach Hershey "suggested" that he take the football home at night and sleep with it. One Thursday night before a big game, his dad, who was then Sylvania's police chief, summoned Coach Hershey to their home. Sure enough, there was W.H. sound asleep clinging tight to an old Spalding.

That loyalty carried over when Coach Hershey returned to Screven County in 1983 and W.H. was now a grown man and himself the police chief. W.H. came by the school daily to check on things, contributed money for kids to go to football camp and traveled with us to every road game. He and Coach Hershey were like an Alabama state trooper and Bear Bryant.

Chief Black was driving Coach Hershey's vehicle one night in Dublin as we pulled our team busses into the wrong stadium driveway at East Laurens High School. We had to back out and the second bus, not the one I was driving, smacked right into the front of Coach Hershey's Ford Bronco. It folded the hood double against the windshield.

As he was prone to get, Coach Hershey became furious. He not so calmly asked W.H. why didn't he blow the horn so the coach driving the bus would know to stop. Chief Black, almost in tears, responded, "Coach I tried but couldn't find the horn." There was nothing else to be said. It was clear that Coach Hershey's old fullback was more upset about the damage than even his old coach, the truck's owner.

All of us tried to comfort W.H. by explaining to him that we knew Coach Hershey had directed us into the wrong driveway to start with. He took no solace in that fact because he refused to believe that his coach could be wrong about something.

During my last couple of years at Screven County, we were privileged to have Chief Black's two sons become old enough to play football. They were jam-up; yes-sir and no-sir kids. They did what you asked with all due diligence. They were obviously raised right by their dad and mother, Joette. They knew that their teachers and coaches would be supported to the hilt by their parents.

W.H. Black was the kind of man that I, at the then tender age of twenty-six and a new father, aspired to be like. With parents like Chief Black, we could run off tackle on third and twenty and it was okay because it was the coach's decision, not his. He was always with us, win, lose or draw.

If I'm asked what it means for a man, young or old, to be loyal to his high school coach, I'll tell the story of W.H. Black, Chief-of-Police. To him loyalty was like the law of the land that he enforced every day. There was no substitute. I was lucky to get to know this congenial gentleman. He was one that when you saw him coming you were always glad.



Web posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004


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