Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Clyde Horton left profound impact on many

He never tried to do it, he couldn't help himself.

Being a role model mentor, no, make that father figure, was in his DNA.

Clyde Horton was a husband, father, grandfather, cousin, uncle, etc..., etc..., but for hundreds of unrelated young men he was known as coach, and for thousands he was known as friend.

He quietly walked the halls of Central High School for 27 years of his long teaching career that included three stops before he found his home with the Tigers, his alma mater.

He dressed in a crisp white shirt, matching pants with black shoes and a smile. A soft genuine patient smile was common.

He was a physical education teacher, assistant football and head track coach. His teams were feared, honored and respected.

He won eight state championships, 13 cross country championships and coached eight nationally ranked hurdlers.

He was National Track Coach of the Year in 1969 and 1974 and worked with the Olympic development team.

Horton's track teams were honored and respected, especially the hurdlers.

Few knew he had starred in football and track at Arkansas Tech, helping lead them to a win in the New Orleans Toy Bowl in 1946.

It was natural for him to settle into a career of teaching.

Along the way he became a confidant to anyone who needed to talk.

My junior year in high school that need was there. No one would confuse me with a choir boy and a teacher, long forgotten, sent me to the coaches office to meet the board of education. Licks with a paddle.

On the long walk, I ticked off the names of the coaches I didn't want to be there.

If a couple of them had been there, I might have bolted. They believed in never sparing the rod.

Fate was what it was that day as Coach Horton was the only one in the office.

We talked. And talked. I thought I might have talked my way out of the punishment when he said let's get this over with. He leaned over and told me it was going to hurt him, too, and I believed him.

Then he gave me two soft taps with the paddle and said come see him anytime.

I did and he made me look forward to my senior year.

Just weeks into that momentous year I learned Coach Horton was an officer in the Arkansas Air National Guard and had been called to duty during the Pueblo Crisis.

I asked him not to go. To turn in his retirement papers.

He smiled and told me that a man never shirks his responsibilities. When he retired it was after more than 33 years of service and as a Lieutenant Colonel.

He missed my senior year. I missed him and he remained a positive shadow every day.

Over the last four decades our paths crossed on a regular basis at all sorts of events, and it was always a joy to see him.

He and his wife Mary Jo were enjoying retirement, staying active with a variety of activities that always included Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.

Coach Horton's career was so distinguished that he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Arkansas Track Hall of Fame, National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame and Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction.

There are too many awards to list them all.

He was a really good coach, who believed in tough love with a heavy dose of love and kindness.

On September 23, at the age of 92, he ran his last race and won.

This sports writer remembers all the coaching glory, but my respect runs deeper. I was just one of a multitude he took the time to listen to and help, and he will be missed by legions for years to come.

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