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Coach Beryl Shipley’s Tribute

Biography of Beryl Shipley

The biography of Beryl Shipley is a two-part entry: part one was provided by his family and part two was provided by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Beryl Clyde Shipley was born on August 10, 1926, in Kingsport, Tennessee. He was the youngest of three brothers—all born a year apart—red headed, cross-eyed with corrective glasses until about six years old—tough for a boy. His father, Tom E. Shipley Sr., back from World War I, walked a mile and a half to work at the Kingsport Press, a book manufacturer. Beryl’s mother, Blanche Dykes Shipley, previously a school teacher, a member and president of the PTA and her mother, Lula Frazier Dykes, took care of Beryl and his brothers, and monitored their school grades. All were seated in the First Baptist Church of Kingsport every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday nights. Beryl attended Dobyns-Bennett High School where he lettered three years in basketball, two years in baseball, and one year in football. [Please see “Beryl’s Early Years” segment below by his brother, Tom Shipley, shared at Beryl’s 2013 induction into the Dobyns-Bennett High School HOF]

After discharge from the WW II Pacific Theater Navy in 1946, Beryl attended Hinds Junior College on scholarship as a starting guard. There he met and married Dolores Gerrard of Yazoo City, Mississippi. (Beryl was inducted into its Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.) He completed his BS degree at Delta State College on scholarship as a starter at guard. (Beryl was inducted into DSU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.) Beryl began coaching at Morgan City High School, Mississippi, in 1951– basketball, football, baseball — and teaching five social studies classes. He finished the basketball season with 19 wins, 7 losses. In 1952, Shipley moved his young family to Starkville, MS, where he was Starkville High School’s head basketball and assistant football coach. He coached basketball for five seasons, had 111 wins, 26 losses, won three Little Ten Conference Championships, two district titles, and acquired a Masters’ Degree in Education Administration from Mississippi State University.

Coach’s achievements were noticed by John Robert Bell, Southwestern Louisiana Institute’s football coach/AD, and a longtime personal friend, also from the Kingsport area. Beryl brought his young family to Lafayette in 1957 as the head basketball coach at SLI. He coached at SLI/USL for seventeen exhilarating years–molding young men, integrating athletics at USL and always doing what he thought was right. In an interview before his 2011 death from lung cancer, Beryl shared a guiding credo of his life, “My dad stood for what he believed in, and he never was intimidated. And when my time came, I did just what he would have done.” Beryl and Dolores have three daughters, Marilyn Watson (Bill), Patty Snyder (David), and Amy Cowand (Scott), 9 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren.

Beryl loved and was embraced by the people of South Louisiana, his adopted home. After coaching he had a successful career in the oil patch working for Fluid Dynamics and for Drilling Measurements Inc., retiring in 1992. An AVID sports fan, he daily followed his favorite teams, players and coaches. Beryl LOVED people–his friendships and family were sacred to him. Everyone enjoyed his quick wit and sense of humor. He insisted his loved ones know the value of a smile, and of making and maintaining friendships. He kept up with friends and former teachers from his childhood days in Kingsport to his golf, business, and sports buddies in Lafayette and around the U.S. He was cheered throughout his life and throughout his last illness by the visits, calls, and emails of countless friends and loved ones.

“Beryl’s Early Years” by elder brother, Thomas E. Shipley, Jr.

In summer Beryl and his brothers were out of the house at sunrise with 40 other kids about the same ages from neighboring streets. Some sports activity was always going on. We played football in various locations. Mostly we played touch football, but from time to time, tackle. We played tackle with no equipment other than the football when the black kids challenged us. They put together a team from around Walnut Street, and we cobbled one up from around Forest, Myrtle, Cross and other connecting streets. We played games that lasted two or three hours. As I recall, we played once or twice a season with them. There was never any trouble—no fights, arguments, etc. And I don’t remember who won.

We played softball in the street. Ball covers didn’t last long on concrete, friction tape helped, but when the balls were totally gone, old socks, wadded up and covered with friction tape worked. We played baseball at the high school diamond, and marbles were played year round.

Beryl’s back yard was used for high jump and pole vault. A coat-hanger hoop installed on the garage, and a rubber ball allowed basketball early on. Later we played in a vacant lot nearby; a friend made a cast-iron hoop, the boys made a pole-mounted backboard, and we played until the hoop broke. On Sundays, we sneaked into the high school gym. And finally, there were regulation backboards at homes.

A high school coach, LeRoy Sprankle, organized a Saturday Morning League for Basketball. Beryl, about five years old, joined his brothers there. Some said Kingsport’s prowess on the basketball court was due to those early years and the enthusiasm for the game that was passed on from father to son. Maybe they were right. Sports Illustrated, in 2009, reported that Kingsport, Tennessee’s high school boys’ basketball team was the nation’s winningest, with 2000 wins, 667 losses since beginning play in 1918. The runner-up Illinois team had played 13 more years.

With bicycles, Beryl and friends rode to Bays Mountain 12 miles away, to the Holston River at Eastman, or to Rotherwood; or, to Indian burial mounds on Long Island or down at Rotherwood, looking for arrowheads.

Beryl and the boys played cowboys and Indians. They liked the local Indian tribe, the Cherokees, and emulated them in the woods or camping. Indians walked with their feet pointed straight ahead, never outward. Beryl and his brothers always made sure that the toes of their feet pointed straight ahead.

When night fell, we all gathered under a streetlight and played cards—fish, old maid, hearts — or played hide and go seek, kick the can, or tag until the calls to come home began. When those who were left were insufficient for a game, the rest grudgingly quit for the evening. But we could hardly wait for sunrise the next morning.

Beryl’s experience playing sports in his neighborhood and school pointed him toward his future. And the self-reliance that he and his friends developed from organizing and conducting their own activities in boyhood developed the trait of self-reliance that was invaluable later on, as they faced the challenges that emerged, as their dreams of the future turned into reality.

Submitted by the Beryl Shipley Family, coordinated by Thomas E. Shipley, Jr. and Marilyn Shipley Watson (10/1/2017)

Beryl Shipley guided the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) to national basketball prominence and was the first coach at a predominantly white state college in the Deep South to give scholarships to black student-athletes. He was the Ragin’ Cajuns’ coach from 1957-73 and his teams were 293-126 (.699). He had only one losing season in 16 years. USL finished in the national Top 20 in each of his last six seasons – the first four in the college division polls, the last two in Division I. Shipley was the Gulf States Conference Coach of the Year four times and Coach of the Year in the Southland Conference once. With stars like Hall of Fame member Bo Lamar, Roy Ebron and Marvin Winkler on his teams, USL went 19-5, 20-5, 16-10, 23-3 and 23-3 in his last five seasons. The final two teams were ranked in the national major college Top 10 and reached the NCAA Division I Tournament Sweet 16, but after the 1972-73 season, the USL program was disbanded for two years because of alleged NCAA rules violations. Shipley had resigned in spring 1973, and never resumed a college coaching career. He briefly was head coach of the San Diego team in the ABA. He is in the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Source: Louisiana Sport Hall of Fame Website – www.lasportshall.com– posted for his 2014 Induction.

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Click here for the Beryl Shipley Athletic Hall of Fame Reenactment – Blackham Coliseum – Nov. 27, 2017.
Click here for Coach Marlin’s letter published in The Advertiser, June 21, 2014 honoring Coach Shipley.
Click here for Dan McDonald’s article written for Coach Shipley’s Induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on June 20, 2014.
Click here for the 2014 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony . (108 photos – Shipley Family Included)
Click here for the 2014 Induction VIP Reception.(35 photos – Shipley Family Included)

Click here for the letters submitted in 2010 supporting Coach Beryl Shipley’s induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Photos of the unveiling of the Beryl Shipley Bust Nov. 11, 2012: By Bill Watson and Ed Dugas, By Brad Kemp, By Patrick Soper, By Dean Church
Click here for An Accidental Hero by John Ed Bradley, Sports Illustrated, May 2, 2011.
Click here for the Shipley Footnotes of the Men’s Basketball Reunion 2011 with Dr. Savoie presenting to Coach Shipley. A special letter from Jerry Flake is part of this photo gallery.
Click here for Coach Shipley’s video greeting for the 2011 Men’s Basketball Reunion.
Click here for video on Slam Dunked: The NCAA’s Shameful Reaction to Athletic Integration in the Deep South, May, 2008.
Click here for the Men’s Basketball Reunion Jan. 18, 2003.

Click here for information on the Shipley Mended Hearts Scholarship established in 2001.
Click here for the 10-chapter Shipley Reunion video, Nov. 2-3, 2001.
Click here for the digital photos Scrapbooks of the 2001 Shipley Reunion (Chapters 5-9)and Memory Lane (Chapters 1-4).
Click here for Coach Shipley’s Athletic Network Profile.

To view photos of the basketball teams of the Shipley Era (1957-73), please click www.athleticnetwork.net > Photo Gallery > Men’s Basketball > the year you wish to view.
To view photos of previous Basketball Reunions and Jersey Retirements, click on “Ragin’ Cajuns Reunions and Special Events – banner on right of news > scroll down and click on the heading of the event you wish to view.
Posted by Dr. Ed Dugas