By Bill Plott
Retired Notasulga High School basketball coach Obadiah Threadgill III was born into a family of educators. Both of his parents were teachers, and his father, Obadiah Threadgill II, coached and officiated in the Sumter County area.
In addition, his brother Kenneth Threadgill taught and coached basketball at Livingston High School, winning a state championship in 2003. Another brother, Reginald Threadgill, is a longtime basketball official in the Jefferson County area.
That legacy has now extended into a fourth generation. Obadiah’s wife Joyce is a career elementary school teacher. Their son, Obadiah Threadgill IV, the head boys’ basketball coach at LaFayette High School, has already coached a state championship team at LaFayette, and his wife Shernika is cheerleader coach.
It all started with Obadiah Threadgill I, said Obadiah III, who has been selected to be enshrined into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. “He was the son of slaves,” he said, “and a God-fearing man who knew the importance of getting an education.”
Pam Langford, Dadeville High School administrator and a former Notasulga teacher, in her letter nominating Threadgill for the Hall of Fame, said there is still another legacy.
“Athletics serve an important role in the lives of many young people,” Langford said. “Coach Threadgill has used his love of basketball and his coaching ability to give many student-athletes an opportunity to be successful. However, as a school principal, parent and friend, it is his character that I admire and appreciate the most! Not only did Coach Threadgill teach kids to be winners on the court, he taught them to be winners in life.
“His examples of integrity, work ethic, perseverance and compassion were so important for our students. Now, thousands of his students and athletes are adults. It warms my heart to know that those characteristics have helped them be successful in life.”
Langford said Threadgill’s influence didn’t top there.
“I see [them] instilling those winning characteristics in their own children,” she said. “Coach Threadgill’s positive impact will go on forever.”
Threadgill attend Sumter County Training School, graduating in 1965. He attended Tuskegee University, graduating in 1970. He later earned a master’s degree from Auburn University in 1980.
A Vietnam veteran, Threadgill went into military service after his graduation from Tuskegee. He served from 1970-72. Out of the Army, he returned home to Sumter County and accepted the position of director of the Sumter County Head Start Center.
In 1973 he moved to Macon County, first as teacher and coach at Tuskegee Public Middle School from 1973-74, and then at Deborah C. Wolfe High School from 1974-77. From 1977-81 he held a similar position at Tuskegee Institute High School.
In 1981 he accepted the position of teacher and head basketball coach at Notasulga High School where he served through 2002.
Notasulga in the 1960s and 1970s was a town with difficult integration issues. Those issues were overcome by a community that came together. Macon County Board of Education member Karey Thompson recalled that situation in his letter.
“Dwight Sanderson and Buddy Knapp, along with Principal Robert Anderson, became legendary leaders at Notasulga, having navigated an uncharted journey of school desegregation in the early 1970s not only in the athletic program but also in academic achievement and positive community relations. In 1974 a television crew (BBC/England) visited the campus of NHS, recording the school’s story and later aired to a national and international audience, a documentary of Notasulga’s success.
“In Notasulga, Coach Threadgill is viewed much the same as Sanderson-Knapp-Anderson. If the Blue Devils had a Mt. Rushmore, the four mentioned would receive priority placement. In 2014, in a combined project, by act of the Macon County Commission, Macon County Board of Education and Town of Notasulga, Notasulga High School honored the legendary coaches by naming the football stadium Sanderson-Knapp Football Stadium and the gym Obadiah Threadgill Gymnasium. NHS Principal Robert Anderson (deceased) will receive special recognition at a later date.”
When he retired after a 30-year teaching and coaching career, Threadgill’s coaching legacy included:
· More than 900 wins coaching boys’ and girls’ basketball at varsity and JV levels.
· Two boys’ state championships in 1987 and 1992; one girls’ state championship in 2001; two state tournament runners-up.
· Nine Final 48 appearances, including three in a row in girls’ basketball.
· Nine consecutive Southeast Region appearances.
· State Coach of the Year for boys in 1987 and 1992 and for girls in 2001, and six Region Coach of the Year awards in boys’ basketball and six in girls’ basketball.
· Coached both boys’ and girls’ teams in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.
· Notasulga High School Gymnasium was named in his honor.
Dr. Lenda Jo Connell, wife of principal Anderson, said Threadgill’s strong character was the key.
“Character can be formed in many ways,” she said. “Coach Threadgill’s unshakeable character came from a rock-solid family who valued faith, family and education leveled with a good dose of humor! This is a dedicated, strong family that has left their mark and continues to leave their mark on high school athletics in the state of Alabama.
“Coach Threadgill is the type of gentleman whom you want influencing young people. A humble man, I never heard him say ‘I’. It was always ‘We’ when referring to his many successful endeavors. Because of his commitment, dedication, and willingness to work together, Notasulga High School stands today as a testament to men like Coach Threadgill, who believed that (education-based) athletics could build young men and women and community.”
SATURDAY: Edward Wood’s impact still strong after four decades.