Saturday, February 28, 2009

No.13: Milam Coaches

Milam Coaches: Jerry Clayton, Bubba Thompson, and Walker Wood

Jerry Clayton was the head basketball coach at Milam until he succeeded Kermit Davis as the basketball coach at the high school. Davis left to become the head basketball coach at Mississippi State after winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles in 1965 and 1966 (I think). Clayton left coaching a year or two later when he was elected Lee County Chancery Clerk. When Coach Clayton left Milam to go to the high school, he was succeeded by Freddie Joe Chiles.

Bubba Thompson was the laid-back head football coach at Milam. I remember having him for PE in the seventh grade. It seems like he popped popcorn everyday and ate it while he watched us sweat. Coach Thompson was a gentle sort, but he could swing a mean paddle if he were pushed too far.

Walker Wood (even now I cringe at the thought of calling him anything other than Coach Wood) was just out of the Marines when he came to Milam to coach eighth grade football and assist with ninth grade football. He swung the hardest paddle of anyone I ever saw, and he seemed to enjoy doing it. I had him for eighth grade health, and we were all absolutely terrified of him. Those who knew him best could tell story after story about how he gained his reputation. I ran into him in Tupelo several years ago and really enjoyed visiting with him. He had really mellowed. More recently I ran into a group of his former football players enjoying a reunion with him over lunch. What a guy.


  1. I didn't really know Bubba Thompson so much when I was in school. I came to know his gentle, caring nature through my parents who knew him and his sweet wife at church (First Presbyterian). When Daddy was in the hospital with brain cancer Coach Thompson and his daughter came by to check on us.

    I don't remember the year of the HUGE snow, but I do remember Coach Wood coming by our quite impressive sledding complex the neighbors had set up all over our block of Van Buren Ave. The guys in our group encouraged him to sled down the hill, launching off the snow-packed "ramp" in the middle of the slope in front of my house! Scared me to death . . . I thought, "If he gets hurt, he may get mad at all of us!" But I think he had fun. I don't think he hung around long on our hill.

  2. Thanks for those stories, Marnelia. That's quite a story on Coach Wood. I would not have imagined he would have fraternized in those days. You never really know, do you?

  3. I remember Coach Wood as much a gentleman as he was an intense football coach. Those who received his "face-to-face" coaching will never forget it. It usually consisted of Coach Wood grabbing your face mask and pulling it right up to his face with his tobacco-speckled teeth gleaming against his bright red face. That was the first time I ever remember being referred to as a "maggot", but it was not the last.

    I can also attest to Coach Wood's paddle swinging capabilities. I had him for American History in ninth grade, and had broken my ankle in football practice. I made the mistake of talking during his class, and as a result, my partner in crime and I were introduced to "Old Blue". The fact that I was sporting crutches and a cast on my ankle did not gain me any special consideration.

    I understood that Coach Wood married a girl from Corinth in the late 70's, and went into the family construction business. I had also heard that he had died at a young age from an untimely heart attack. Please tell me the rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

    Hank Barger

  4. To borrow from Mark Twain, the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. He is still among us. The reunion I referred to above was in the last few months. He no longer has a flat-top, and his blond hair has some gray in it, but he still has the same big grin.

    It's good to hear from you, Hank. Stay in touch, and keep reading.