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Honoring a legend

Bethune goes all out for Doby Gordon

Posted: May 28, 2018 5:54 p.m.
Updated: May 29, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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A GATHERING OF FORMER Bethune High School football and basketball players, coaches and volunteer coaches pose for a group photo along with Doby Gordon (second from right) at last month’s reception at the Bethune Community Center.

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On Saturday April 21, nearly 200 people converged inside the Bethune Community Center to show their respect and appreciation to a man who had a big impact on their lives while playing sports at Bethune High School.

Guests came from throughout the United States and Germany, far and near, to honor Doby Gordon and to recall what it was like to play sports for the legendary Wildcat and Lady Wildcat coach.

Because of the one year long planning and preparation led by Steven Stokes, BHS class of 1978, and now, a Special Agent with the FBI, assisted by Barry McGougan, Robbie Brown, Mark McCarty and Doris McGougan the event was a big success.

All around the wall of the Bethune Community Center were large articles recalling the wins of the BHS teams and players. Hundreds of pictures, copies of old football programs and a few trophies reminded those in attendance of the good old days.

Volunteers like Carol King, now 96 years young, attended the event. Both his sons played football for Coach Gordon and his only daughter played on the basketball team that won the state championship while under Gordon’s coaching. Fred Stephens also attended the event. He assisted in coaching football for several years and his Wildcat basketball team won the boy’s state championship in 1983.

Even though Bethune High School had the same number of players on the football field as the big schools, there were never more than two assistants on the Wildcat sidelines and sometimes, only one. It made it tough for the coaches and for the players.

Most of the small number of players had to learn to play offense and defense. It was a hardship back then but those players learned that life isn’t always easy and they carried those learning skills taught them on the field and ball courts to withstand hard obstacles onto their college days and now later into their workforce. They learned how to make the best of a bad situation. It is very evident that those life skills taught them while attending Bethune High School paid off because of the high success rate of the graduating students.

Gordon, assisted by Buster Brand, were the only paid football coaches in 1979 but it was a good season for the Wildcats as they finished with a 9-2. For several years, BHS made its way into the South Carolina High School League state playoffs.

There were plenty of stories which were told about Gordon. Barry McGougan remembered Coach Gordon saying that nobody was blocking on the two-man sled during practice. He remembered coach saying “You do not deserve to win if you do not block on practice days.” Both McGougan and Kenneth McCaskill said “we’ve heard enough of this.” So, finally, they got the message and they turned the two man sled upside down with Coach Gordon on it.

Coaching at Bethune was like having one big happy family with everyone pitching in. Gordon’s wife, Suzanne, would make healthy snacks for the players and the parents and cheerleaders and would hand them out at the end of the game.

The dedicated teachers had a big impact on the students’ lives and are never to be forgotten. The volunteers are too numerous to mention. Also in attendance was the Mayor of Bethune, Charles McCoy, who was always willing to lend a hand at practice and helped to volunteer coach during the games.

Near the end of the reunion, Wildcat football players from 1970 to 1987 presented Gordon with signed footballs on two tees displayed with a plaque stating, “In Appreciation of Your Commitment to Coaching, Teaching, Mentoring and Dedication to Building Character to Student Athletes.”

The afternoon proved to be a great reunion for the former Bethune High School football teams. Even some former basketball players and cheerleaders came to show their appreciation.

Gordon was humbled to be honored. He said God put him in Bethune for a reason. During the reunion all those in attendance did what Gordon did before every game. They recited “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Gordon said “It was wonderful to see how the quality of education they received from the small town of Bethune and the positive impact these former students are now making in Kershaw County, the state of South Carolina, the United States and the world abroad.”

Part of the Bethune High School Alma Mater summarized the reunion best of all: “When in our exiles our hearts may be yearning, for the bright scenes of our vanishing youth. Back to the portals of memory turning, clear stands the beacon of love and truth.”

Bethune High School … gone but not forgotten.

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