It’s amazing how age changes your perspective. Since I’ve gotten older, I have a greater appreciation for a man who I have to admit, I didn’t always value as I should have. That man is the late William Green Bullock. He was known by his friends, of which there were thousands, as “Red,” and by many of us, including his four stepchildren, as “Coach.”
Red was born in 1923 in Raleigh, N.C., but his family moved to Valdosta where he, in 1941, played football for the legendary Wright Bazemore. Red would letter in four sports, but before graduation, joined several of his friends by joining the military after Pearl Harbor. As a member of the Army Air Corps, he would be involved in the D-Day Invasion as part of the invading forces the day after the main landing on June 6, 1944. He was discharged at the end of the war and had suffered a serious knee injury.
His high school principal awarded him and his friends their diplomas at the end of the war without requiring them to return to school. He reasoned that they had earned their diplomas with all the things that they must have experienced. In 1993 he was named to the Valdosta High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
The years after the war saw Red attend Vanderbilt on a football scholarship, but a recurrence of the knee injury ended his football career. However, he played baseball at Wake Forest and South Georgia College, where he received his degree. Red then began a long coaching career that would take him many places: Lyons, Wrightsville, Evans, Forest Park, R.E. Lee in Thomaston, and finally, Thomson. He had some good moments as a coach. His 1953, Lyons’ team went 9-1, losing only to Glennville, 13-12. He began the football program at Evans in 1958. He was an assistant to the legendary Jim Cavan at R.E. Lee in the late ’60s.
In 1970, Red came to Thomson to coach the defense for Fred Bowers, for whom he had worked at Forest Park in the mid-60s. He moved here with his wife of one month, Barbara, and four stepchildren, all of whom would come to adore him. He was asked to become the head coach upon Bowers’ departure in 1973. I don’t think that Red, at age 50, really wanted to be a head coach again. However, his bosses asked him to take the job and his primary assignment was to see that the finances were managed in such a way as to pay off what was, for that time, a huge athletic debt. In three years he did just that.
Red received a lot of criticism for what most coaches receive criticism. He didn’t win enough games. We didn’t always have the confidence in him we should have and this is a tough place if you aren’t winning. I have to admit that if we as players had been more dedicated and behaved off the field, we would have won more games and he would have received less criticism. Red left coaching for good after the 1975 season and finished his career as the head of DCT, a vocational educational program.
When I got into coaching I found, in him, a friend who would give you good advice even if it wasn’t what you always wanted to hear. I never came away from a conversation with him in which he didn’t make me feel better about my chosen profession. For that I am grateful. I’m grateful for his entertaining stories and the humor he exhibited as well as the sound advice he gave me.
Red, who died after a battle with cancer in 1999, was a good man who had many friends. How many men do you know who are so highly regarded by his stepchildren, that one named a building after him and another named his son for him? That speaks volumes; much more than how many games he won.
I know Red is making the angels laugh with his great stories, told in that gravelly-voiced drawl. God bless you, Coach, and thanks for the stories.