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.
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)
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Click here for the Beryl Shipley Athletic Hall of Fame Reenactment - Blackham Coliseum - Nov. 27, 2017.
Landrick "Prentice" McKellar - Men's Basketball 1952-54 & 1956-58