Home Opinion Letters to the Editor Thanks, Coach Whatley and Minden

Thanks, Coach Whatley and Minden

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Coach Ronnie Whatley, left, and Dick Lawson with his Special Olympics trophy. Courtesy photo

My son, Dick Lawson, was born in Georgia with special learning disabilities. We placed him in public, private and military schools, trying to help his learning and decision making ability.

In 1979, we enrolled Dick, who was 16 years of age, in Evergreen Life Services near Minden. The school and Mr. Outz, a Special Education Professional, had a great reputation for helping special young adults.

Little did we know that the Minden community and especially Coach Ronnie Whatley, would make Dick a favorite son of the community. We had no idea of just how wonderful Minden would be for our son. Before long, Dick got a bicycle and enjoyed driving all over town smiling and waving to everyone. He quickly grew to love everyone in Minden and they loved him in return.

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In 1980, with the help and encouragement of Coach Sonny Taylor, Dick began participating in Special Olympics and that is where he met Ronnie. There was an instant connection between Coach Whatley and Dick.

Dick told me Ronnie was an All-American linebacker from El Dorado, Arkansas. When I met Ronnie he told me that Coach Garland Gregory had a special assistant named Murphy that helped the Wildcats. Ronnie asked me if I would mind if he included Dick on the team as his assistant.

Dick quickly became a regular on the sidelines at Minden football, basketball, baseball, and track events. Coach Whatley made sure he was part of the team, always helping with water, towels and equipment.

During Dick’s first 10 years in Minden, Mr. Outz was his caretaker, Coach Sonny Taylor was his Special Olympics sponsor and Ronnie was Dick’s mentor. All these men were an integral part of Dick’s happiness.

In 1990, Mr. Outz tragically died. Dick was traumatized at the thought of having to leave his many friends in Minden. My prayers were answered when Ronnie and Cheryl Whatley stepped forward to handle Dick’s affairs. Looking back, God’s hand works in mysterious ways when you consider Ronnie was in the prime of his coaching career. Any coaching opportunities in other schools or colleges would be rejected because he had committed to helping my son.

I recently spoke with Mark Hankins, Minden Walmart Manager, and he said “Dick is one of the most dedicated associates we have and this shows through his 23 years of employment with us. Dick is the type of associate that would never miss a day and does his job to the highest standards in all weather conditions! Dick is an absolute integral part of what Walmart stands for and is loyal supporter of the community and Minden athletics.”

Recently I asked Ronnie how such a great athlete could be such a kind, loving man. He replied:

“I was born and raised in El Dorado, Arkansas. At the age of 6 years old I was stricken with polio. I remember how it felt to watch the normal kids run and play. I swore that when I got well, I would outrun them all. El Dorado had an outstanding Boys Club run by Cecil Kellum and he taught us that athletic competition would build our character. I loved growing up in El Dorado and I hope the Minden children feel the same way about their hometown. After my playing days were over, I have found it very satisfying to give back to my teammates, family, church and community. I started out as Dick Lawson’s mentor and now he is more like my brother.”

God bless Minden for Coach Ronnie Whatley. I understand he is retiring in May after 46 years of coaching and teaching our children. He is the most unselfish, loving, Christian person I have ever known. I can die today knowing Dick will always be loved and cared for the rest of his life. What a precious gift to know that my son is living a full and happy life.

Dick’s Grateful Mother
Kay Oxford Singletary
Thomasville, Georgia

35 COMMENTS

  1. Well…Coach Whatley is just AWESOME. He has always been a source of inspiration….even if you weren’t able to do athletics. Dick is a great guy and is never short for words. I think the world of both these men. My God continue to send blessing their way.

  2. Coach Whatley coached me and my brother in Jena La in the late 70’s. He was an awesome coach but even a greater man. I was blessed to know him and his family. Love you Coach Whatley and thank you for all you did in Jena.

  3. My son loves Coach Whatley just like yours. I have been privileged to work with Coach Whatley at MHS and now at Webster. He is a GREAT person! Also, my kids (all 3 grown) and I love Dick. He, too,is a great person! God did a lot of working to get Dick to Minden, a city which embraces his kind heart. God is good, all the time!

  4. My son Cade was injured playing FB last year and I always tell Dick to take care of him for me. He lets me know after every FB game and baseball game how Cade’s leg is doing. Great guy.

    Our family love Ronnie and Cheryl Whatley with all our hearts.

  5. Two great men! I was blessed to work with Coach Whatley at MHS from 1993-2000 and got to know Dick as well. Both of them always had a smile on their face and an encouraging word.

    Thank you both for the example you have set for all of us!

  6. know Dick and if you don’t know him you need too, he is one of the happiest men I know and sweet to all that he see. And between all this with Dick and the St. Jude’s and just what Minden gives back we live in one of the grates town.. Thank you Coach and Minden for looking out for my Friend. I meet Dick about 5 years ago when I was down at the racecar shop where Dick loved to help Mark Woods and as Mark loved having dick around. Dick and I have been friends all this time. Minden loves Dick he is the heart and sole of Minden.

  7. What an inspiring testimony to the goodness of man and God. It thrills our hearts to know how well Dick is doing and to know much he is lived and appreciated. We know that you as his mother feel so blessed by the people God has put in Dick’s life. May God continue to bless him and all of his support team in Mibden. May God continue to bless you in every way! Love ya!

  8. great story kay. your mother and father were always so nice to me. truly great people..know they are looking down on dick with joy. may god bless you, john and dick. jolly holley

  9. I’m grateful for the influence coach had in my life. He is an awesome Man with a heart big enough to fit all Minden and his players in. Thanks for your patience and time for the class of 1999.

  10. Not only has Ronnie had a relationship with Dick, but there are several young men today that owe Coach Whatley for keeping them on the right track!! I also thank you Ronnie for the influence you had on my son!! It wasn’t only about winning !! I hope that you enjoy your retirement !!

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