Every year, individuals spend considerable amounts of time, and sometimes money, in libraries and online in an effort to trace their family tree and ancestry. People do this for a variety of reasons, including to understand their background and where they came from. For many, the process is as rewarding as the final product. The same can be said for tracing your coaching tree. If you ever have the time and avenue to do the research, I strongly encourage you to trace your own coaching tree. What you find may be astonishing.
Obviously, an individual coach can be influenced by many others, but for the sake of argument, I suggest following a single branch of your coaching tree with which you strongly identify. For me, my coaching tree begins with retired Giles High School (VA) head coach, Steve Ragsdale, and his father, legendary Narrows High School (VA) head coach, Harry Ragsdale.
Harry Ragsdale coached football at Narrows High School from 1931-1962 and had an overall record of 166-67-20. Before his arrival at Narrows in 1930, Harry played football at Lynchburg College (VA) under the direction of Edward L. Wright. Wright came to Lynchburg College the same year as Harry, in the fall of 1926. A Wofford College graduate, Wright was a lineman under head coach J.P. “Rip” Major, in the fall of 1919.
Following his graduation from the all-male South Carolina institution, Wright became the head coach at Wofford Fitting School, a military school in Spartanburg designed to prepare high school boys to enter Wofford. Next, Wright became the head coach at Carolina Military & Naval Academy in Hendersonville, NC. After a single year, Wright made the move north to Lynchburg, Virginia. Wright’s Wofford roots were strong in Lynchburg. The principal at Lynchburg High School was H.A.C. Walker. Walker was not only a Wofford graduate himself, but his grandfather and namesake was instrumental in the founding of the college. Wright had been hired to teach history, science, and be the head football coach at Lynchburg High School. A school that would become known as E.C. Glass High School, Lynchburg High reached the state championship game in 1925 under Wright, losing to Newport News 7-6. Following this highly successful campaign, Wright was named athletic director and head football coach at Lynchburg College.
Wright’s college coach, Rip Major, was an Auburn alum, having served as captain in the fall of 1912 under the guidance of Mike Donahue. Major had been a standout and All-Southern performer at quarterback. Donahue had been a quarterback as well, serving as a backup on the Yale squad of 1903. While Yale’s coach in 1903 was technically George B. Chadwick, captain and consensus All-American halfback from the previous year’s team, who handled the day to day operations of the team, Walter Camp served as the football advisor during that time period and had the final say on the direction of the program and all of Yale’s football-related decisions. Chadwick was labeled as the field coach and Camp the general coach, but many news sources made reference to Camp as Yale’s head coach.
From Jeremy Haymore, to Steve Ragsdale, to Harry Ragsdale, to Edward L. Wright, to J.P. “Rip” Major, to Mike Donahue, to George B. Chadwick, to Walter Camp. Seven generations of coaches separating myself and the “Father of American Football.” The journey of researching that lineage and understanding what is in my football roots makes coaching and teaching this great game and its wonderful history that much more worthwhile. I recommend it to all coaches.
Fear The Wing!