• 61°

Coach Smith was a great example to many

Top of the morning, to all Natchezians. As I write this from a male student athlete perspective I realize and apologize to all my coaches that have passed on before Coach George Smith. All of them gave us every ounce of life they had to make us successful. I could not let this pass me by.

In the late ’60s, ’70s to early ’80s it was the best of times for those who attended Sadie V. Thompson High School and Anchorage Junior High (Later to become North Natchez). One of those reasons was because Coach George Smith and the influx of administrators, teachers and coaches who changed the paths of our lives forever. The role model this “Giant of a man” represented through his perfectionism, expertise, integrity, toughness, loyalty, intelligence, wisdom and friendship shall never be forgotten. He made you proud to wear that Green and Gold.

Anchorage Junior High introduced us to a group of coaches, teachers, bus drivers, counselors, custodians and other parents that would shape our lives forever.

Even though we had supportive parents and big brothers and sisters, these men and women taught us lessons about academics and life that helped nurture and raise us. “It takes a village.” The pride that was instilled in us and what we observed from the student athletes at Sadie V. Thompson was a combination for success.

We believed we were invincible, ready to take over the world. Once arriving at North Natchez High School, we met for the first time Coach George Smith, Coach Eugene Marshall, Coach Robert Smith and Coach Doc Woods. The reason I have mentioned all these coaches is because Coach Smith was an accumulation of them all. No Holds Barred Competitor like Robert Smith. The genius of Roy Youngblood, the competitiveness of a Tom Williams, the fundamentals of a Eugene Marshall and the smoothness of a Tommy Davis and James Earl Gray and the confidence of Henry Doc Woods.

Then there was Coach Smith — 6-feet, 9-inches tall, mean as the day was long. Coach Smith influenced, strongly disciplined, communicated and listened to us. He knew everything about each of the students we associated with, even the girls. When we graduated from North Natchez, all he wanted us to do was to make Natchez proud.

Years later after I graduated college and returned home to teach and coach, Coach Smith had taken over the reins for the North Natchez High School Basketball program. I accepted the junior high position and what a time it was. I could not wait for my practice to end so I could slip into his practice. Coach took me under his wing for three exciting championship years. North Natchez became a force to be reckoned with. Observing and listening to him during that tenure was invaluable to me. His consistency, discipline, tough-mindedness and understanding of players were second to none.

But not only coaching, his advice, and conversations about relationships, staying humble, growing tomatoes and just life in general were a testament of the man he was. Did I forget to mention Coach was an usher at Zion Chapel AME Church. I wonder what message he was sending (Psalms 84:10) He loved the Lord (You get the picture). Coach Smith, he helped shape and save many of our lives and for that we express much love, respect and gratitude. Rest in Peace.

Samuel West is a member of the North Natchez Rams Class of 1973.