Annual Event Honors Legacy of Local Black Coaches and Gaming Officials

The African American Coaches and Games Officials Association was established to ensure the perseverance of Black Athletes and cultural achievement of Blacks in Duval County. The idea for this association was the idea of local coaches Earl Kitchings, Jimmie Johnson, Dr. Alvin White and others.

The coaches and game officials would meet on the second Friday of each month to eat breakfast and enjoy fellowship. Naturally, discussion would follow about topics of interest, such as the great coaches in the district and teams and players who have helped to make Jacksonville a recruitment hub for the NFL and NBA sports arenas. According to William Hines, AACGOAA past president and former Ribault Middle Schools first African American Athletic director, “the coaches were a tightly knit group who gave much of their time and talent to mentoring their students.”

To celebrate the achievements and accolades of the AACGOAA, the 7th annual awards banquet was held to honor the many coaches and officials that helped shape the Duval County school district and the many students that were mentored by the officials. Over 200 family and friends gathered to honor the AACGOAA legacy. The award ceremony was held at Joint Heirs Christian Center and emceed by AACGOAA officer and program chair Edward Hall.

Guests enjoyed dinner and reminisced on their sports programs success throughout the years. This year’s recipients included 18 honorees; six in the athletic category; eight coaches and four game officials.

When discussing the role of AACGOAA during segregation, members chimed in, “What we had was a segregated society. It was easier for the coaches to have input into their students social relationships and the opportunity to provide guidance and disciple”.

“Prior to integration. coaches lived near the schools where they taught and coached. They had better opportunities for getting involved and improving the quality of teaching and coaching at those school,” said Hines.

During the year the organization makes an effort to visit local high schools and museums to spread the word on the historic efforts of African Americans in sports in Jacksonville. Other yearly efforts include a golf tournament and summer outings.

This Years honorees include:  (Athletes) Johnny Charles Beaton, Sr., Donald Gaffney, Otto “Doc” Graham, Jr., Charles Sutton, David M. Thomas, Charles “Charlie Horse” Williams; (Coaches) Harold “T-Model” Donald, Thelma Pinckney Geiger, William (Bill) Hines, Carl C. Hughes, Sr., Adam R. Johnson, Freddie L. Stephen, Jerome Wheeler, Bernard Wilkes; (Game Officials) James B. Anderson, Elroy Green, Willie Davis and Harold F. Pierce.

While our Black coaches and the influence in the lives of their athlete’s have lessened, Black athletes of today still face enormous obstacles in obtaining positions in the coaching, managing, and executive ranks of professional sports as well as in college and university ranks. These obstacles are not reduced by the number of Black athletes who graduate with marginal skills, who do not graduate at all, or who play successfully in the professional leagues. In short, there is little correlation between the excellence of athletic abilities and the mobility many white athletes have between the playing field and the coaches clipboard.

One thing is for certain, the legacy and impact of Jacksonville’s coaches and game officials at a time when a game was all we had, is one to be celebrated in Black History Month and beyond.  Barlow Photos

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