J.D. Chesteen’s Career In Education Spanned Four Decades In Geneva County

NOTE: This is the second in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Look for  basketball legend Jack Doss’ profile Wednesday. Tickets for the 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center are still available to the public by calling 334-263-6994 by March 16. No tickets will be sold at the door and mail order ticket deadline has passed.


                                                              By BILL PLOTT
            A native of Coffee County, James Donald Chesteen graduated from Brantley High School in 1946 and from Troy University in 1951. He died on Dec. 19, 2014, just a few weeks after learning that he had been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

            His son Donnie said J.D. knew early in high school that he wanted to be a football coach. The only way that could happen was to lay the groundwork in the military. He served two years in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of staff sergeant, and then was able to enroll  at Troy where he played football and earned his bachelor’s degree.

            His teaching and coaching career began in 1951 as an assistant coach at Samson High School. He stayed three two years and then took his first head coach job at Coffee Springs High School. When they beat Cottonwood 7-6 in the fourth game of the seasons it was the revived Coffee Springs football program’s first win since before World War II.

            In 1954 he returned to Samson, this time as head coach. After a 4-5-1 start he led Samson to four consecutive winning seasons. It was the days before the state playoff system and a number of towns held  high school bowl games. Coach Chesteen’s teams appeared in the Lions Bowl and the Peanut Bowl. His five-year record was 19-18-4.

            In 1960 he moved to Geneva County High School at Hartford.  Again there was a slow start with his first team going 3-7. Then it was 26 wins and two more bowl appearances over the next three years. The 1962 squad finished with a school record 10 wins after beating Rehobeth 3-0 in Dothan’s Peanut Bowl game. It was the school’s first undefeated season since 1926.

            The following year Geneva County finished 9-0-1 with another Peanut Bowl victory. They were named Class 2A state champs by The Birmingham News.

            Coach Chesteen retired from coaching in 1969 but remained a teacher until 1989.

            Among the coaching honors he received were:

            --South Alabama Conference Coach of the Year, 1961 and 1962

            --Head coach of South All Stars, 1963

            --Represented state High School Coaches Association on the National Football Rules Committee

            --President of Alabama High School Coaches Association

            --President and vice president of South Alabama Conference

            --Elected into Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

            Like so many coaches, Chesteen’s influence went far beyond sports. Hartford businessman Danny Fulford wrote: “Coach J.D. Chesteen is without a doubt one of the most influential people in my life…Although I didn’t attain greatness in the football sport world, I achieved far more than I ever expected because of this man. As my high school coach, he made me believe in myself enough to walk on at Auburn University and eventually attained a four-year grant-in-aid scholarship. Without his faith in me and encouragement I would have never thought this was possible. He personally carried me to Auburn in 1962 and left me in a world I was completely unfamiliar with, and, to be truthful, I probably would have never stuck it out had I not known this man was back in my hometown with complete confidence in me...Also, I know that I’m not the only person who he has influenced so much in past years. I know of numerous other people that he influenced to be better people in life as well as sports.”

            Another former player, Tom Bryan, said Chesteen changed not only individual lives but also community pride: “When Coach Chesteen came to Hartford, he inherited a program that had won only three games in two years and had only 17 players on the team. In two years his 1962 team went to 10-0 and won the 2A state championship, and he followed that up with a

9-0-1 season in 1963. By then we had over 60 players on the team. Following the 1962 season he coached the 1963 AHSAA All-Star Game in Tuscaloosa and I was fortunate to be on that team.

            “Turning around the football program at Hartford doesn’t come close to telling the story of J.D. Chesteen as a man of character, commitment, and community service. He completely changed the attitude of the whole town. His enthusiasm got everyone involved and the school became a source of town pride.

            “My father died when I was 10-years old and Coach Chesteen became the father figure I needed at a critical time in my life. He did that for everyone who played for him. Without his encouragement and fatherly guidance I would not have been able to earn a scholarship to Auburn and a college degree that has enabled me to be in a position to help others like he helped me.”

            Dale County associate superintendent Lamar Brooks grew up in Hartford when Chesteen was coaching. He recalled: “I was not old enough to play for Coach Chesteen. However, the influence that he had directly on me came from other places. Coach Chesteen was my Sunday School teacher. Many of the lessons he taught did not come from a book or any text. He taught us lessons about life and what was really important . To do this, he used real life situations in which we could relate.”

Daily Series To Highlight AHSAA Hall of Fame Class of 2015 - Nancy Becker First in the Series

          MONTGOMERY – Twelve major contributors to prep athletics in Alabama will be inducted into the 25th class of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame March 23.

          The 2015 class, which includes coaches, administrators, officials, media and an “oldtimer,” will be inducted at a special Silver Anniversary banquet commemorating all 25 years of the event. The banquet will be at the Renaissance Hotel at the Convention Center in Montgomery.
         The public is invited to attend the banquet. The deadline for ordering tickets by mail was March 2, but anyone still wishing to purchase tickets ($40.00 each) has until March 16 to order tickets by phone at 334-263-6994. 
          Selected were tennis coach Nancy Becker, basketball coaches Steve Jefferson, Jack Doss and Bobby Wright, football coaches Steve Rivers, Doug Goodwin and John Tatum, athletic director Myra Miles, track official Houston Young, and administrators Alan Mitchell and Ron Ingram. Selected in the “Old Timer” category was longtime Geneva County football coach James D. Chesteen.
            Beginning today, a series featuring the inductees written by state sports historian Bill Plott will begin at www.ahsaa.com. Today’s Class of 2015 Spotlight is Nancy Becker,  Vestavia Hills High School girls’ tennis coach for more than two decades. Be sure to check the website daily for each installment.
          Sponsors of the Hall of Fame program are the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) and the AHSAA. The corporate sponsors are Cadence Bank, Coca-Cola, EBSCO Media, Encore Rehabilitation, Farmers Insurance, Russell Athletic, TeamIP and Wilson Sporting Goods.

AHSAA Hall of Fame Class of 2015
Nancy Becker Shares Love For Tennis


                                                          By BILL PLOTT
                                                          First of a Series

            A native of Gadsden, Nancy Backer graduated from Gadsden High School in 1957 and Auburn University in 1961. The 2015 AHSAA Hall of Fame inductee holds a master’s degree in business education from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Her teaching career spans 40 years, most of it in her native state of Alabama.

            Upon graduation from Auburn, she went to Jacksonville, FL where she taught business for three years. In 1965, she accepted a similar position at John Carroll High School in Birmingham.

            In 1984, she moved to Vestavia Hills High School as a business education teacher and girls’ varsity tennis coach, a position she held for 23 years. From 1987 until she retired in 2010, Coach Becker compiled a spectacular girls’ tennis coaching record.

            During her 23-year tenure, her teams finished in the top four every year. They won 10 AHSAA state championships including strings of three and four in a row (1989, 1991-93, 1998-99, 2007-10). They finished second eight times (1998, 1990, 1994, 2001-05). There were also four third-place finishes. They won 20 sectional championships.

            She was twice (2008 and 2010) named the National Federation of High Schools Coach of the Year.

            In 2013 she came out of retirement to assist that team which also won a state championship.

            She was recognized by The Birmingham News when her team presented her with her 200th coaching win. She was named state coach of the year in 2008 and received a 2011 Outstanding High School Teacher/Coach award from the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham.

            Vestavia Hills Principal Wes Gordon wrote about Becker’s distinct personality:

            “If you talk to Nancy Becker today, you are likely to hear stories about her weekly tap dancing class or her latest visit to the theater. Even after many, many years of teaching and coaching, Nancy Becker forgot to grow old. She is the only coach to show up in tights at a faculty Christmas breakfast and the only coach to cajole her teaching department to perform a song from A Chorus Line at the faculty talent show. Her involvement in the school community extends much further into the fabric of the school than coaching. She is a model coach and a model teacher.

            “Vestavia Hills High School is a school with many long-time successful coaches The coaching staff at my high school is impressive and exceptional because of the level of commitment the men and woman give to high school athletics….Still a teacher at the high school, her smile and positive attitude continue to pervade the school community She continues to coach young men and woman, not so much in lessons of tennis anymore, but in lessons of life.”

            Fellow teacher Timarie Fisk wrote that Becker’s commitment off the court has been as important to her players as her coaching:

            “Nancy is not only a coach to her players. Her guidance as a mentor, friend, and leader has had an impact on hundreds of high school tennis players. Nancy expected the best from her players. While under her coaching, it did not matter whether a player was in the top six playing players or were further down the roster. Nancy expected each player to bring her best and to be a committed member of the team.

            “Nancy was diligent about finding a player’s strengths both on and off the court. She expected her students to not only make a commitment to the team but also to their academic standards. Her high expectations resulted in the girls’ tennis team consistently holding some of the highest GPAs at Vestavia Hills High School.

            “As a coach, Nancy was committed to good sportsmanship. Her players knew that if they exhibited a bad attitude on or off the court, they would be removed from competition. She expected that all players support each other by encouraging support and praise both on and off the court.

            “Nancy has stayed involved in the tennis program even after her retirement from coaching. She has assisted the coaches that have followed her legacy by supporting them during competition and mentoring them through leading their own teams. Her help and support contributed to VHHS winning the 2013 6A state title.

            “Nancy Becker has had an impact on tennis in both the Vestavia Hills and Birmingham communities. Her commitment to tennis, education and development of young people has established a legacy that is deserving the honor of being a select member of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.”

            She has also earned a number of personal awards in tennis. She was a member of the committee that founded the Birmingham Ladies Inter-Club Tennis League and was on the championship team in 1975. She was tennis chairman for the Mountain Brook Swim and Tennis Club in 1975. In 1976 she was the mixed doubles champion at the Country Club of Birmingham. She won district, state and the Southern Equitable Family Tennis Challenge, enabling her to play doubles in the Nationals Finals of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship at Flushing Meadows, N.Y. in 1979.

            Her additional community service has included serving on the boards of both the Charity League and the Civiettes for a number of years.

12 Selected For 25th Class of AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame

MONTGOMERY – Twelve major contributors to prep athletics in Alabama have been selected to the 25th class of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.

          The 2015 class, which includes coaches, administrators, officials, media and an “oldtimer,” will be inducted at a special Silver Anniversary banquet commemorating all 25 years of the event March 23, 2015, at the Renaissance Hotel at the Convention Center in Montgomery.
          Selected were tennis coach Nancy Becker, basketball coaches Steve Jefferson, Jack Doss and Bobby Wright, football coaches Steve Rivers, Doug Goodwin and John Tatum, athletic director Myra Miles, track official Houston Young, and administrators Alan Mitchell and Ron Ingram. Selected in the “Old Timer” category was longtime Geneva County football coach James D. Chesteen.
            The 18-member Hall of Fame Committee made the selections from the 50 nominations on the Hall of Fame ballot. The Hall of Fame is located at the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) office in Montgomery.

Sponsors of the Hall of Fame program are the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) and the AHSAA. The corporate sponsors are Cadence Bank, Coca-Cola, EBSCO Media, Encore Rehabilitation, Farmers Insurance, Russell Athletic, TeamIP and Wilson Sporting Goods.
           To order tickets ($40 each), mail requests along with check or money order (payable to AHSADCA) to: Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association, P. O. Box 242367, Montgomery, AL 36124. Additional information is available at 334-263-6994.

     A thumbnail sketch of each 2015 inductee:

     NANCY BECKER: One of the most successful girls’ tennis coaches in AHSAA state history, Becker began teaching as a business education teacher at Jacksonville (FL) in 1962, moved to John Carroll High School in 1965 and then to Vestavia Hills High School in 1984. Her tennis teams won 10 Class 6A state championships, had eight runner-up finishes, finished third four times and won 20 sectional championships.  Her teams won over 200 matches in her 23-year career at Vestavia Hills and several prestigious tournaments, including the Chattanooga Rotary Tournament three times.
    She was named NFHS State Tennis Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2010 and was honored by the Birmingham Kiwanis Club as Outstanding Teacher/Coach in 2011. She came out of retirement in 2013 to serve as an assistant coach and helped Vestavia Hills win the state championship. A 1957 graduate of Gadsden High School and 1961 graduate of Auburn University, Becker has been involved in many civic organizations, including Charity League, Civettes and the Birmingham Inter-Club and Tennis League.

     JAMES “J.D.” CHESTEEN: A long-time head football coach in the Wiregrass, Chesteen, is being inducted in the “Old-Timer” category.  He compiled an 86-64-6 overall record over a 16-year head-coaching career with stops at Coffee Springs, Samson and Geneva County.  He coached three teams to the Peanut Bowl, one to the Lions Bowl and had teams win the South Alabama Conference 2A Championship twice. He served as president of the South Alabama Conference in 1964, was elected vice president of the AHSADCA in 1962 and president in 1963. He was head coach of the South All-Stars in the 1963 North-South Game and inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
   He totaled 38 years and nine months as a teacher and coach in the Geneva County School System, retiring in 1989. Active in civic and church activities, he has been Chairman of Deacons at Hartford Baptist Church for 12 years. 
     He graduated from Brantley High School in 1946 and Troy University in 1951. He also spent three years in the Air Force (1946-48). His son Donnie Chesteen is currently the head football coach at Geneva High School.


     JACK DOSS: One of the state’s most successful high school boys’ basketball coaches in history, Doss captured the 700th win of his prep coaching career in 2014.
    His head-coaching career has produced seven state championships – two at Hayes in 1981 and 1982 in his first two seasons as a head coach. His teams won five at Butler in Huntsville (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011). He is currently coaching at J.O. Johnson which has reached the state finals the last two years.
    Doss has had two games televised nationally over ESPN, his basketball character development strategies have been showcased on CBS Sports, and he has coached three players that were named Mr. Basketball in Alabama. His teams have produced more than 30 Division I players, including former NBA standout Buck Johnson. He also coached future NBA stars Charles Barkley and Ennis Whatley in the North-South All-Star Game and Eric Bledsoe in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.
     He has been inducted into the Madison County Sports Hall of Fame, named Birmingham News Coach of the Year seven times and selected to coach in the AHSAA’s two all-star games four times.
    He graduated Oxford High School (1965) and after a stint in the Air Force, earned his college degree at Jacksonville State University.

A member of the AHSAA’s 200-win club as a prep football coach, Goodwin began his head-coaching career at Marion County from 1987-92, then at Lineville (1993-98), Demopolis (1999-2006), Russellville (2007-10) and Homewood (2011-13).  He led Lineville to the state finals in 1996 and 1998, won a state title at Demopolis in 2004 while setting a state single-season scoring record (761 points) in the process. His Russellville teams reached the state finals in 2008 and 2009 and his Homewood teams won region titles in 2012 and 2013.
   His career record is 234-91 with five state championship appearances and was the first coach in AHSAA history to guide three different schools to the state finals.
    He was selected ASWA Class 4A Coach of the year in 2004 and the Alabama Football Coaches Association 5A Coach of the year in 2008. He coached in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game in 2005 and the North-South All-Star Game in 1998. A graduate of Sylacauga High School (1980) and Auburn University (1984), he currently serves as Director of High School Relations and NFL Liaison for Auburn University.

     RON INGRAM: The AHSAA Director of Communications since 2007, Ingram has served on the National Federation Hall of Fame Screening Committee and the National Records Committee, currently serving as chairman.  A sports journalist before joining the AHSAA, he  served as sports editor of the Dothan Progress from 1975-1981 and the Dothan Eagle from 1981-1984. In 1984 he became prep sports editor of the Birmingham News where he remained for 24 years before joining the AHSAA staff.  The award-winning writer has been named the Alabama Sports Writers Association Sports Writer of the Year and captured the ASWA’s sweepstakes writing award twice (1987 and 1994). He started and chaired the ASWA state football and basketball rankings and also the All-State teams from 1978 until 2008. He also managed the Birmingham News All-State Teams for football, basketball, softball, baseball, wrestling and volleyball.
    Ingram graduated from Pike County High School (1970) and the University of Alabama (1974). He was inducted into the ASWA Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2013, the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and was named Alabama Community Journalist of the Year in 2012 by Auburn University. He has authored two books, Tales of Alabama High School Football and Sammy Dunn--Dynasty on the Diamond.

    STEVE JEFFERSON: The highly-respected boys’ basketball coach recorded over 650 career wins in his 31-year career at Carver in Birmingham. He led the Rams to back-to-back Class 4A state championships in 1978 and 1979 – playing before the largest high school crowd in AHSAA state tournament history at Coleman Coliseum against Parker in the 1978 finals. His Carver teams also reached the state finals three more times (1983, 1997 & 1998).  He served as an assistant coach on Carver’s 1981 Class 4A state runner-up team. Jefferson also coached Conecuh County Training School from 1965-68 with one trip to the AIAA state tournament. He was head football coach at Birmingham’s Ullman High School for one year.
     He was named Birmingham City Schools Coach of the Year 10 times, the Birmingham Tip-Off Club Coach of the Year twice (1979 and 1998) and received the 1998 Frank Nix Distinguished Service Award presented by the Tip-Off Club. He was named Birmingham Times Coach of the Year four times.  Jefferson is a graduate of Escambia County Training School (1958) and Alabama State University (1962).


    MYRA MILES: Considered one of the top high school administrators in the nation, Miles served as athletic director at Hoover from 2008-2014 after serving one year as interim AD. She also taught and coached at Hoover from 2002-2007. During her tenure the school won more than 20 state championships in 10 different sports.
    Her first teaching/coaching assignment was at Haleyville (1984-88), followed by stops at Brooks (1989-99), St. James (1999-2000) and Coffee (2000-02). She coached volleyball, softball and girls’ basketball and taught physical education during her teaching/coaching career. Her volleyball team at Haleyville won the Class 4A state championship in 1987 and finished runner-up in 1985 and 1986, then her softball team won the Class 4A state title at Brooks in 1994. Her career records were 546-201 in softball, 355-152 in volleyball, and 192-124 in basketball – a total of 1,062 prep wins in the three sports.
     Miles served on the AHSAA Central Board of Control from 2012-14, was president of the AHSADCA (2013-14) and an officer for five years.  She has been active in working with special needs students and Special Olympics and helps sponsor a fishing trip for special needs children in Eutaw annually.
   Miles is a graduate of Bradshaw (1979) in Florence and the University of North Alabama (1984).  She also attended Freed-Hardeman College.

The veteran Assistant Director of the AHSAA served as the association’s first Director of Publicity and Publications during five different decades while working with three different executive directors.  A dedicated individual who has championed the AHSAA’s education-based athletics mission his entire career, Mitchell was recognized by the NFHS with the National Citation Award for Section 3 at the 2011 NFHS Summer Conference in Philadelphia. The AHSAA Central Board of Control also issued a resolution honoring Mitchell’s 32-year career with the AHSAA.
    Mitchell joined the AHSAA after spending 14 years as a newspaper journalist and five years in college public relations. The 1960 Robert E. Lee High School graduate completed his college degree at Huntingdon College in 1964. He was a sports writer for the Montgomery Advertiser from 1958-66 while also holding down the Huntingdon College sports information director position from 1959-66. He served as Publicity Director at Tennessee Wesleyan College from 1966-71 before returning to Montgomery as sports editor of the Alabama Journal in 1971 where he remained until joining the AHSAA. He has served in various leadership roles at Aldersgate United Methodist Church and currently directs the Praise Singers ensemble.

    STEVE RIVERS: The veteran football coach had head-coaching stops at Pelham (1979-80), Decatur (1981-95), Athens (1996-99) and Wakefield, N.C. (2000-05). A graduate of Sylacauga High School (1967) and Mississippi State University (1971), his overall head-coaching record is 188-95.
    Rivers had unbeaten regular seasons at three different schools: 1993 (Decatur), 1997 (Athens) and 2005 (Wakefield) during his 27-year head-coaching career. The father of current NFL quarterback standout Philip Rivers and current Vanderbilt quarterback Stephen Rivers, he led 16 teams to the state playoffs. He played in the North-South All-Star Game in 1967 and later served as head coach of the North team in the 1997 game. He was an assistant in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game in 1999.
    Rivers, who won the state prep doubles tennis championship in 1967, also coached tennis and basketball at Decatur and was inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and named the Decatur Daily Football Coach of the Year five times. He played at Sylacauga for AHSAA Hall of Fame coach Tom Calvin and served as an assistant in his first coaching job under Hall of Fame coach Earl Webb.


     JOHN TATUM: A graduate of Montgomery’s Robert L. Lee High School (1964) and Troy University (1969), Tatum spent 16 years as athletic director, head football and track coach at Montgomery Academy (1984-2000). He also had coaching stops at DeKalb County (GA), Norcross (GA) and Everitt Junior High in Panama City, Fl. He also worked with AHSAA STAR Sportsmanship developer Learning Through Sports in 2007-08 and served as principal at St. James School for three years before officially retiring. His Montgomery Academy teams compiled a 170-95 record, including 24-17 in playoff games. His 1987 team finished 14-0 and won the Class 1A state title. His 2006 team was 10-0 in the regular season and closed out 12-1. Three of his teams reached the state semifinals.
    His overall head-coaching record was 196-112-1 with 21 trips to the state playoffs in 27 years. In 1987 Tatum was named Class 1A Coach of the Year, Montgomery Quarterback Club and Birmingham Monday Morning QB Club Coach of the Year. The 2005 AHSADCA Athletic .Director of the Year was also named Montgomery Advertiser Coach of the Year eight times. He was an assistant coach in the first Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game in 1988, coached in the North-South Game in 1999 as an assistant and as head coach of the South in 2007. A member of the prestigious Jimmy Hitchcock Award selection committee, he was inducted into the Robert E. Lee High School Hall of Fame in 1999.


      BOBBY WRIGHT: The Central-Phenix City boys’ head basketball coach since 1989, Wright also served 26 years as defensive coordinator for the football team. His Red Devils basketball team has compiled a 449-160 record in 22 seasons with an average of 22 victories per year.   His 1992-93 and 1998-99 teams each finished 29-3 and the 1994-95 team compiled 27-2 record. He guided teams to the Final Four five times and to the Class 6A finals in 1999. Prior to becoming head coach, he served as Coach James Redd’s assistant and coached the JV team for several years.
     Central football teams compiled a 215-82 record during his coordinator tenure that included the Class 6A state championship in 1993. The Red Devils posted 59 shutouts during that span and allowed only 10.8 points per game.
     Wright has won numerous Coach-of-the-Year honors from the Columbus Ledger Enquirer and Opelika-Auburn Daily News. He graduated from Buena Vista (GA) High School in 1960 and Fort Valley State College (GA) in 1974.

      HOUSTON YOUNG: One of the top track officials in the nation, Young was awarded the NFHS National Citation Award as Track Official of the Year in 2010. A track and field official since 1968, he has worked the state track meet for the last 48 years and currently serves as a State Track Meet Director. He was named AHSAA State and Southwest District Official of the Year in 2008. An Olympic Torch Bearer in 1996, he has also officiated at several regional and national college track meets.
    The 1963 Uniontown High School graduate became a college track standout at Livingston University where he set the 100-yard dash record that still stands. He became a teacher at Beatrice in 1968, moved to Lowndes County Training for one year and then joined Selma High School as teacher and track coach where he served from 1971-79. He moved into administration at Wallace Community College in Selma for 22 years. He is active in his community and church, serving as a deacon at Elkdale Baptist Church and as president of the Selma Jaycees in 1971. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Selma-Dallas County Red Cross and received the Education Award from the Prattville Fire Department.