Hundreds gathered to say their final farewell to Herman Boone — the iconic former head coach of the T.C. Williams High School 1971 championship football team — who passed away last month surrounded by his family and friends at the age of 84.
Boone, whose story is immortalized in the Disney movie Remember the Titans about the 1971 integration of Alexandria’s high schools, died just weeks after making a guest appearance at the annual ACPS Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony where he was welcomed as a star and former inductee.
On December 28, family, friends, former colleagues and local dignitaries came together at T.C. to pay their respects to a man who helped change the face of Alexandria by reaching across racial lines and showing the world the true meaning of unity. The city released a proclamation declaring December 28, 2019 to be Herman Boone Day.
“Coach Boone has touched so many lives. He is so much bigger than Remember the Titans,” Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. reminded the audience. “I hope that the next generation, including myself, remember that there were people way before us taking risks and putting their lives and careers on the line to ensure that we had a seat at the table.”
Boone, who came to Alexandria from North Carolina as T.C.’s first African American head coach, had to put politics aside to work with Bill Yoast, the equally legendary coach at the all-white Francis C. Hammond High School who had been hired as defensive coach at T.C. Williams High School. The two pulled together to solidify a diverse group of students into the most successful football team in the state that year.
More important than the football games, Yoast and Boone’s relationship brought together the formerly-divided city of Alexandria to support their winning integrated school team.
“We thought it was a joke, but it ended up to be better for Alexandria than Brown vs. Board. We were as different as night and day. But he and I found a way to talk to each other and trust each other. In the end, he was the best friend I ever had,” Coach Herman Boone told ACPS in May.
The two coaches both died this year, seven months apart.