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Bill Archie (Photo by Dr. Grady James)

Black Arts and Culture

Requiem For Legendary HBCU Coach “Bill” Archie

By Glen Mason
Special to the New Journal and Guide

Norfolk, VA
There are no statistics for humanity. If there were, William “Bill” Archie would be in another hall of fame.

Sainthood. Then his service to mankind as a professional educator, epic! Coach Archie dedicated his adult life to turning young African-American men into Men. Period.

He was an expert at it.

From his son Larry, grandson Kyle, John Baker, John Coleman, Harvey Dorsey, Ray Jarvis, Horace Luten, Rodney Baylor, Curtis Cole, Craig Breon, Earl Bryant, Billy Mann, and me. There are probably hundreds more. And these were only a few of the scholar-athletes he mesmerized. There were thousands more he counseled who never donned a pair of football cleats or sneakers.

The word legendary came to mind when coach William “Bill” Archie, Norfolk State University director of intercollegiate athletics emeritus, was memorialized recently. It was a celebration of life for a man bigger than life who passed on March 18 at age 91.

Probably one of the most important things my parents ever did for me was moving behind coach Archie in Chesterfield Heights.

“Coach Archie did so much with so little not just for Norfolk State athletics but for Norfolk State University, the city of Norfolk, the community,” said Shirley Whitaker, a retired athletic administrator, and Archie’s longtime assistant.

“Coach Archie was one member of the village that raised me. He was my athletic mentor, and as a young boy contributed to my entrepreneur drive by being a customer in my summer lawn care service. I was also proud to serve on FestEvents’s Board of Directors with Coach Archie. May he rest in peace with the other angels,” said Curtis Cole, was raised around the corner from the Archies.

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Coach Archie invested in people. If he had a gift that was it. Everything else was all the man. And what a man.

A scholar-athlete before the term became a part of modern vernacular, Archie was an All- CIAA and Hall of Fame quarterback at West Virginia State University where he led the Yellowjackets to the CIAA championship.

After a stellar prep career at Elkwood High School in West Virginia, he received his Bachelor of Science and a Master’s degree in Education from West Virginia State University and did further studies at Ohio State University.

Coach Archie invested in people. If he had a gift it was the inherent ability to convince them to never fear the odds stacked against you. Pray, worker harder than the forces against. Reach back and help the next person.

To me, and any one else who played for him, worked with him, heck, loved him, Coach Archie was bigger than life. Archie will be remembered as a servant to humanity. “If I can help somebody along the way then my life will not have been in vain,” remarked the Rev. Otis Sumler, coach Archie’s God-son at his memorial service Sunday. It was coach Archie’s credo.

Not only did he help design the swimming pool on the campus of NSU, he spearheaded efforts to build a community pool in Chesterfield Heights because the Chesterfield Heights community was on the banks of the Elizabeth River. Archie also taught swimming and water safety to kids in other predominantly African-American communities where it was sorely needed.

“What Coach Archie did for Norfolk State, AND the community, will always be remembered,” said the Honorable Judge Jerrauld Jones. “He taught me and my brothers, Hillary and Darryl, how to swim along with other kids who lived in Anna Shores. Like my father, Coach Archie felt it was important to know how to swim, because it can save your life or someone else’s.

“Not only did he teach us, he’d go out to L & G Gardens and teach the kids in that community how to swim at Mr. Hugo Madison’ home. That was really something. Where did he find time to do it all.”

Coach Archie, and his devoted wife, Mayola, have one natural son and daughter, but hundreds of surrogate sons and daughters. Thank you Pam and Larry, you shared so much of him for so long. Where did he find time to be the “All-Father” to you? Thank you Mrs. Coach Archie, how did you feed generations of athletes, students? How many sons and daughters have you educated and sheltered.

Coach was a caring and hardworking individual who led by example. He expected nothing but the best from each of his players and we all wanted to please him,” said John Coleman, a captain of Archie’s football team. A retired professional educator.

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“He was a “father figure” to all of his athletes.

“He prepared us for life thru athletics. We all came to NSU with a natural skill set. He and his coaching staff just ”fine-tuned” the players depending on their position. The decision to attend NSU was my aunt’s! She wanted me to attend an HBCU! I was recruited by coach Archie who showed up at my home in COLUMBUS, OHIO. My aunt was immediately impressed!”

Coach Archie knew talent. Friend or athletic foe, he surrounded himself with hall of fame talent leaders. William “Dick” with Price, Robert “Bob” Smith, Chester Lewis, Charles Christian, Ernie Fears, Bob Heard, Robert Ledbetter. He consorted with other legends. Other professional hall of famers like Bob Moorman, Clarence “Big House” Gaines, Walter Lovett and Bobby Vaughan.

Because of Bill Archie I always had access to a gym and a college library as a kid. It kept us off the street. Curtis and I both excelled in every sport we played, but we had “better keep those books right.” Was he talking to us or his son Larry who won two state football championships as a coach. Like Craig Brehon did in basketball who lived across from the Archie’s.

Bill Archie was the kind of educator who made, MADE, a neophyte sports writer sit in meetings with his coaches. Have his coaches train him and teach him to be a scout and coach so he would never ask a stupid question at any press conference. Taught him to never be intimidated by X(s) and O(s).

As a coach it was more important for Archie to build character and coach manhood, not necessarily a position. If you didn’t know what he was talking about he would put examples in front of you, and in the community. Just look at the captains of his teams, and their dynamic careers: John Coleman, professional educator; Jimmy Lee, artist and professional educator; Donald Porter, decorated officer, professional educator, corporate executive. The list goes on.

Coach Archie dedicated his adult life to turning young African-American men into Men. Period!

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