LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Decades after Texas public schools were integrated, athletes and coaches are still being honored by the Prairie View Interscholastic League’s Coaches Association.
Coach Willie May Burley, Coach James Hall and Tennis standout Vicki Sellers were all honored at a Saturday event down in Houston.
They were joined by other East Texas athletes in being honored. James Bean III, Jerry Jones, Jerry McCoy and Willie Porter were honored for their contributions as athletes at Lincoln High School in San Augustine. Jeff and Andrew Hopkins were honored for their time at Crockett’s Ralph Bunch High School.
Burley died in 2012. Her children were there to accept the honor for her. Burley was a track coach that won multiple district titles at Dunbar and Lufkin High. She broght home state titles at Dunbar.
“She went beyond the call of duty,”Sylvia Burley Goff said. “Some people quit but she did not quit. She was active in the community until she died. She was always helping somebody.”
Goff said what makes this group special is that they were good people and they wanted to help every single child in Lufkin despite the schools being segregated.
“Mother never looked at color,” Goff said. “She believed that every child could learn. She believed that every child could be someone. She went beyond the call of duty. She always helped students. When her athletes would go to college she would send them care packages. I don’t know how she did that on her small salary.”
Burly was a coach at the time as James Hall. Hall coaches at multiple high schools and colleges in Teas. In 1964 Hall made his way to Lufkin. At Dunbar he was the boys basketball coach as well as the boys and girls tennis coach. He was also an assistant on the football team that won three state titles. Coach Hall won tennis titles from 1965-68. Hall died in 2000.
“He believed in extra teamwork and solid fundamentals,” son Darryl Hall said. “That was his motto.”
A lot of the history has been lost as schools move further away from the time of segregation. The PVILCA is working to keep the legacy alive of those who succeeded.
“It is a long time coming,” Hall said. “Back then a lot of the history was lost. it is nice to know they are trying to honor those guys.”
“I don’t know if people know what athletes at Dunbar did,” Burley said. “So many of the big names now have roots with Dunbar and their parents, and their parents. I am just glad we are being recognized and the legacy of Dunbar is still going on.”