from staff reports
DECATUR – Former East Central Community College athletic coordinator and head football coach A.J. Kilpatrick and the late Diamond Warrior head coach Jamie Clark are the newest members of the college’s Athletic Hall of Fame during recent homecoming activities on the Decatur campus.
Kilpatrick, an ECCC alumnus who led the Warrior football program from 1982 to 1992, successfully guided community/junior college and high school football teams to an overall 238-138-12 record during his 36-year career as a head coach.
His resume includes a state junior college championship and several division titles, conference crowns on the high school level and several bowl game victories. He also won championships as a high school basketball and track coach.
“Although I never really finished the job I would have liked to at East Central in winning a championship, I really appreciate the College for remembering me and my family with this award,” Kilpatrick said after being notified of his selection.
Kilpatrick, a Philadelphia native residing in Grenada, has a long list of personal honors, the most recent being his selection to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Football Hall of Fame, which was announced in August. He was inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame in 1986.
Additional honors include Choctaw Conference “Coach of the Year” in 1961 and 1965. He also received “Coach of the Year” recognition from The Commercial Dispatch in 1965,WLBT-TV in 1967, Northeast Mississippi Athletic Conference in 1974, Jackson Jaycees in 1968, National High School Athletic Coaches Association (Southeastern Regional District IV) in 1981, Mississippi Junior College Athletic Association in 1981; and Jackson Daily News in 1983.
His list of service to various coaches’ associations is also extensive and includes a term as president of the Mississippi Coaches’ Association in 1978-79.
Although he enjoyed a long, successful coaching career, Kilpatrick said he has greater pride “in seeing the young men and women that I coached have successful careers in whatever field they chose to follow.”
Kilpatrick’s success in athletics first began when he was a standout athlete at Philadelphia High School. He received All-State and All-Choctaw Conference honors in basketball his junior year and helped lead the Tornadoes to the conference championship and an appearance in the overall state tournament. He also made the All-Conference football squad his senior season.
The 1950 PHS graduate received a scholarship to the University of Mississippi to play for the legendary coach John Vaught, which Kilpatrick regards as his “biggest accomplishment” as an athlete.
He was a member of the Rebel squad during his freshman year and returned for his sophomore season. But after one week of practice, Kilpatrick left Ole Miss.
“Versie and I married during the summer of 1951, prior to my sophomore year,” Kilpatrick said. “And since Coach Vaught did not allow married players on his teams, I transferred to East Central.”
Kilpatrick excelled in football and basketball at East Central; however, a football injury near the end of his sophomore season cut his career short.
He transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi and received a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1954. He later earned a master’s degree in school administration (1971) from Mississippi College.
Kilpatrick began his coaching career in 1954 as an assistant at J.Z. George High School in Carrollton. He helped lead the Senators to the Cotton Bowl Conference Championship his first year and the conference runner-up title the following year. The team’s two-year record when he was on staff was 14-7. He also served as a head basketball coach and led the 1954-55 men’s team to the conference crown.
His first stint as head coach was at Noxubee High School in Macon in 1955. He successfully led the Tigers for 10 seasons, capturing two Choctaw Conference titles en route to an overall 76-21-5 record. During this period, he was also selected as an assistant coach on the North High School All-Star football team in 1962.
Kilpatrick also served as Noxubee’s head basketball coach and led the 1965-66 boys’ squad to conference and district titles and three invitational tournament crowns and a 24-4 record.
In addition, he found success as track coach and led girls’ teams to three state titles, six district championships and a conference crown.
“One of the major highlights of my career as a player and coach involved the Choctaw Conference,” Kilpatrick stated. “Winning a conference title as a basketball player then capturing conferences titles in football, basketball and track as a coach was very special.”
Kilpatrick left Macon in 1965 for Jackson Wingfield, where his three-year mark as the school’s first head football coach was 16-13-2 and included a South Big 8 Conference co-championship in 1968. He also served as head coach of the South High School All-Stars in the summer of 1968.
He began his community/junior college coaching career in 1969 at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, leading the Lions to a 16-4 record and the MACJC North Division title.
Kilpatrick returned to high school competition in 1971 and led the Louisville Wildcats to a 34-5-1 record and two Choctaw Conference crowns and the Northwest Athletic Conference championship.
He left Louisville in 1975 and returned to the community/junior college setting where he again found success. He led Northwest Mississippi Community College to a 26-13-2 mark and a MACJC North Division title during his four-year tenure. He also served as athletic director.
Kilpatrick took over the football program at Hickory High School for the 1979-80 season, during which the Bulldogs finished 4-5.
He returned to the JUCO level and coached Holmes Community College football teams from 1980-82, and led the Bulldogs to the 1981 state championship and a berth in the Garland Junior College Bowl in Garland, Texas. His two-year record at Holmes was 15-8.
Kilpatrick completed his coaching career at East Central, with his most success coming in 1987. The Warriors were MACJC South Division runners-up and fell in first-round action to eventual state champion Northwest, finishing with a 7-4 mark.
Kilpatrick was unable to lead the Warriors to another post-season berth. He said when he took over the ECCC football program, he knew winning would be a challenge, mainly due to the small recruiting district.
“We did not have as extensive a recruiting district as the other junior colleges at that time,” Kilpatrick stated. “We worked very hard to get our recruiting district expanded … but were not able to take advantage of the additional players EC was eventually allowed to sign from Alabama.”
Thanks mainly to Kilpatrick, ECCC’s recruiting district for football includes Tuscaloosa County, Ala., from where 10 players are considered as in-district signees each year. Other small community and junior colleges have also benefitted from Kilpatrick’s efforts in revising the recruiting process.
When he left EC, Kilpatrick said he had several offers to continue coaching, “but I was afraid it might affect my state retirement. Plus, I have really enjoyed watching my grandkids grow up and following their participation in sports.”
Kilpatrick and his wife Versie have two sons and a daughter. Andrew (Andy) James Kilpatrick Jr., an attorney in Jackson, is married to the former Debbie Martin of Grenada. James Lewis Kilpatrick of Batesville, who is deceased, was married to the former Patsy Float and had two children, Stephanie Kilpatrick and James (J.J.) Lewis Kilpatrick. Sandra Kilpatrick Jones works for the USDA-Rural Development Agency in Grenada and is married to Tommy Jones. They have two children, Casey Lee Jones and Katie Lee Jones.
Serving as East Central Community College’s baseball coach was a “dream job” to the late Jamie Clark, according to his widow, Audrey Clark Hastey, who lives in Austin, Texas.
Clark’s “dream job” resulted in a “dream season” in 1998 as he led the Diamond Warriors to their first state championship en route to a 32-22 record. Clark was named “MACJC Baseball Coach of the Year” following the successful campaign.
Clark, who began his tenure in 1988, led the ECCC baseball program through the 2001 campaign, amassing an overall 365-301-1 record. His first Diamond Warrior squad went 17-25, then came 11 straight non-losing seasons (the 1991 team finished at 20-20). The most season wins came in 1997, when the Diamond Warriors – led by current major leaguer Marcus Thames of the Detroit Tigers – collected 40 victories and finished state runners-up.
Regarding her late husband’s selection to the ECCC Athletic Hall of Fame, Audrey said, “Jamie would be so grateful and proud to be included in the Athletic Hall of Fame … but he would make sure that this prestigious recognition would be shared by those who played for him. This is so wonderfully deserving … my feelings, as well as our kids’ feelings, are so overwhelming and emotional concerning this honor. ”
Audrey said coaching at East Central “was not just a job to Jamie; it was his life living out his dream. He loved coaching baseball at East Central and loved being a part of the ECCC family.”
Audrey, a fourth-grade teacher in Austin, said Jamie touched lives on and of the field.
“Jamie was an amazing coach on the field but also an amazing leader off the field,” she said. “I feel those who played for him left East Central a much better person. He often said that his successes were the successes of those who played for him.”
She added, “Jamie began a respectable baseball program at East Central and I’m sure he is looking down smiling at Neal (Holliman) and all the improvements being made (with the baseball program). Jamie lived his life with dignity and honor, and I am so blessed that he shared his life with me. I know he will always be remembered and that his legacy will live on through those whose lives were touched by him.”
Holliman, who led the Diamond Warriors to the 2007 state title in his first year as head coach, served as one of Jamie’s assistants during the 1998 championship season.
He said of his former coach:
“Jamie was a unique individual. He was very serious and passionate about what he did, but was also able to keep a sense of humor about him that was great. I truly miss him and owe him a lot for what he has taught me.”
Holliman said he learn more than just baseball from Coach Clark.
“He taught me more than just coaching; he taught me how to treat people and that there were more to athletics than winning and losing. Although Jamie was very focused on winning and it was very important to him, he was also concerned with developing young men,” Holliman stated. “He was simply a very honest and simple man. He was and always will be a part of my life. I truly feel part of my drive to continually build this program is because I know the effort and passion he poured into this program.”
Added current ECCC head softball coach Scott Hill, a member of Clark’s 1989 Diamond Warrior squad:
“He was extremely passionate about his job and left a lasting impression upon so many individuals that had a chance to be around him. He was a mentor to me as well as many others that attended East Central and played for him,” Hill said. “Coach Clark accepted a great responsibility in bringing the Warrior baseball program to respectability. He definitely achieved this by his record and through the many post-season appearances.”
One aspiring goal that Clark was unable to achieve was winning a Region 23 title, although his teams appeared in five region tournaments. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor prior to the 2001 season and lost his battle to cancer at age 49 later that year on July 18. The Diamond Warrior stadium was named in his honor the following year. Clark’s jersey #41 was also retired and is prominently displayed in the lobby of the Brackeen-Wood Physical Education Building. A replica of the jersey is displayed on the right field fence at Clark Stadium.
Sportswriter Marty Stamper, in an article following Clark’s death, quoted his friend’s explanation for not capturing a Region crown.
“We’re just two players away …,” Stamper said Clark told him on several occasions, and following a long pause gave the following answer: “Babe Ruth and Cy Young!”
Stamper also noted in his article that coaching “was only a small part” of Clark’s legacy, as indicated by the number of former Diamond Warriors who selected coaching as a career.
In addition to Coach Hill, Brian Hardy is another of Clark’s former players who entered the coaching profession. Hardy, a Philadelphia High School product, served as co-captain with Ron Perkins of Louisville on the 1998 state championship squad, which is also being honored at homecoming.
Hardy is in his ninth year at Madison Central High School and serves as pitching coach. He helped lead Madison Central to the 2002 State 5A Championship and runner-up titles in 2006 and 2007.
“Coach Clark meant so much to a lot of us,” Hardy said. “He demanded effort and never looked the other way when things weren’t completed properly. He wasn’t always easy to play for, but the great coaches never are. He knew what made players perform.”
Hardy continued, “Coach Clark was famous for taking average players and making them play beyond their potential. Looking back he had to, because the district around East Central is made up of small high schools that produced a lot of ‘scrappy’ players who aren’t scared of working hard. He knew that was the case (at East Central) and more importantly he knew how to coach that type of player.”
Hardy said Clark gave him some advice that he uses daily in his coaching efforts:
“There are three ways to get a player to work hard: you can be in his face all the time; you can pat him on the back and encourage him; or you can ignore him.”
Hardy said Coach Clark went on to say that the hardest job for a coach is to find out which approach works best for each player.
Clark, a West Point native, began his coaching career on the high school level, with stints at Marvell, Ark.; Humphreys Academy in Belzoni; and Southland (Missouri) High School. The Delta State University graduate led Humphreys Academy to three state runners-up titles and his Southland squad placed third in the Missouri State Championship.
The Clark family includes four children and seven grandchildren. Nicki Clark, Jamie and Audrey’s only child, lives in Austin. Billy and Tiffany Turner reside in Slidell, La., and have three sons, Will, Darrien and Drew. Kevin and Lindsey Turner live in Austin and have two daughters, Grace and Anna Claire, and a son, Alex. Daniel and Leslie Turner are residents of Charlotte, N.C., and have a son, Evan.
from staff reports
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