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Salute to Willie Joe & the ’68 Region Champs

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Saturday, July 30th, over 75 former Chattooga Indians and Ringgold Tigers gathered at the Summerville Depot to celebrate and honor Willie Joe McGraw. This all started a few months ago when several former players of Coach McGraw wanted hold a reunion for the Chattooga High School 1968 Region Football Championship team. Headed up by Milford Morgan and Phil Cavin, the event came together with resounding Indian success.

After graduating Trion High School, Willie Joe McGraw attended Troy State University graduating from there in November of 1958 where he was a standout tackle. His first teaching and coaching position was in Slogan, Alabama where he taught Social Studies and World History and was the Head Boy’s Basketball Coach.

In September, 1959, he moved on to Banks County High School to be the Head Football Coach. Unfortunately the football program at Banks County proved to be an expensive sport and the county elected to do away with the entire program.

McGraw found his next home in Blairsville, GA at Union County High School where he served as the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach.

In September of 1963 McGraw became the Head Football, Basketball and Baseball Coach at Ringgold High School. Several of his former players from Ringgold attended the event.

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Coach McGraw shown with his former Ringgold players

Finally, as the saying goes in football in the South, “Momma called” and Willie Joe found his way back home to Chattooga County in 1965. He served as Head Coach of the Girl’s and Boy’s Basketball teams and as an Assistant Football Coach at Chattooga High School.

“Coach McGraw was a giant of a man. He had that Bear Bryant ‘aura’. He demanded respect and we gave it to him. He had a certain quality that scared you to death and made you love him at the same time….but like a lot of other great coaches, he probably couldn’t coach today,” said former player Phil Cavin.

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The captains of the Chattooga High School football team are shown holding the trophy for winning the Region 7-AA Championship. They are, from left to right, Jim Day, Heath Livingston, Lee Lenderman, and Stacy Ray

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Chattooga High School football quarterback Lee Lenderman signed a scholarship with the University of Georgia in December 1968.

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1968’s Captains, Heath Livingston and Stacy Ray with Coach McGraw.

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The Indian fans of 1968

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Members of the 1968 coaching staff and Linebacker’s Club check out the latest in game recording devices, a reel-to-reel videotape recorder (on cart) attached to a camera. Included in this photograph are, from left to right, Coach Willie Joe McGraw, Principal Bill Kinzy, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Harry McGinnis, Marlin Payne, Jimmy Woodard (mostly hidden), Robert Floyd, unidentified, Coach Jack Shamblin (mostly hidden by camera), unidentified, and unidentified.

 

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