North Natchez standout Berry dies

Published 12:01am Thursday, August 29, 2013

NATCHEZ — Many fans of North Natchez High School Rams remember the presence and strength of Arthur “Tank” Berry dominating on the football field.

But for former assistant coach Robert Smith and former history teacher Jacqulyn Williams, Berry was much more than a resilient player, he was an upstanding man and a joy to be around.

Berry, 49, died in his sleep in his Branson, Mo. home last week.

Berry was a prominent part of the North Natchez Rams before going to Northwestern State University. He received All-American honors in 1984 as a defensive tackle for the Demons.

At North Natchez, Berry stood out as an offensive and defensive tackle. Smith said Berry led the Rams to many victories.

“He was a team ball player,” Smith said. “His junior and senior year, he was one of the team leaders and co-captains.”

One of the main things Smith remembers about Berry is his discipline on the field.

“He was very coachable,” he said. “He was dedicated and he wanted to win. He was a joy to work with as a coach.”

Smith said Berry had great size and he knew how to use it to his full advantage.

He was a big boy, about 6 foot, 260 pounds,” he said. “Around (Natchez), that was a pretty good size at the time.”

Jacqulyn Williams also remembers Berry quite well more than 30 years later.

As former North Natchez head coach Tom F. Williams wife and as the world history teacher at the high school, Williams got to experience the fun side of Berry in several ways.

“He was a good student,” she said. “He was very upbeat, and he loved to have fun.”

Williams believed Berry got interested in football because of his brothers who loved to play the game.

“He followed in the foot steps of his brothers, Edwin and James,” Williams said. “James was a running back who played at the University of Tennessee.”

Though Berry is remembered as a dominant tackle, Berry’s teammates and classmates will also remember him as the life of the party.

“He was always telling jokes and kept people laughing,” Williams said. “After they won a big game, he’d lead the chants on the bus saying, ‘No homework, Mrs. Williams! No homework!’ I definitely remember that.”

At Northwestern State, he was a first-team Kodak Coaches and Associated Press FCS All-America selection after making 77 tackles, nine for losses, and collecting nine quarterback sacks. Berry was one of the biggest reasons defensive coordinator John Thompson’s unit led the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 9.0 points per game.

In the Demons’ 22-0 win against Southern Mississippi, Berry forced three fumbles, recovering one, broke up a pass and blocked a field goal against the Golden Eagles. He was also the Gulf South Conference Player of the Week after a 19-0 win over GSC co-champion Nicholls State. His NSU teammates picked him as the team’s defensive MVP.

Berry was inducted in NSU’s Graduate N Club Hall of Fame, the top honor for athletic standouts at the university, in 1994. He was chosen during the school’s centennial football celebration in 2007 as one of the “Top 100 Demon Players of All-Time.”

Tank is the son of Theodore McMorris and D’Evereux Berry. His parents preceded him in death.

Tank is survived by two children, Arthur and Uriah Berry; two sisters and seven brothers.

He will be buried in Natchez after visitation and the funeral at Pilgrim Baptist Church, 117 Pilgrim Road at 11 a.m. Saturday.