Herman Boone, iconic former head coach of the T.C. Williams High School 1971 championship football team, passed away on December 18, 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.
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.
Coach Boone will be remembered as a disciplined individual whose presence demanded attention.
“He didn’t need to say anything. He just looked at you and that look said it all. There was no denial in what he was saying. He meant what he said and he said what he meant,” said Wayne Sanders, a running back for the ’71 Titans who played under Boone.
“For impressionable teenagers, this meant that Boone was a force not to be ignored. As the head coach, physical education and the drivers ed teacher, he gave young men exactly what they needed to know at that age. He was there to teach, to lead, to guide and prepare young men to go out into the world and do great things,” Sanders added.
The Titans’ 1973 Starting quarterback Kenny White remembers that Boone related everything in football to life.
White and the rest of the team had been told to be at the buses by 4:59 p.m. to leave for a game against Herndon. While the rest of the team sat on the buses, they saw White running to get his gear. Boone asked Coach Dennis Heinz what the time was. It was 4:59 p.m. White recalls running past the buses and then hearing the engines crank.
“They just left me. I was the starting quarterback and they just left me. One of the biggest things he taught me was to be on time and be responsible. If it weren’t for the athletic director who drove past and saw me standing on the side of the road with my gear, I wouldn’t have made the game,” said White.
Retired Chief of Police for the City of Alexandria and Titan football team captain, Earl Cook, learned the hard way one rainy day about skipping class before heading back to school to attend football practice.
“I thought he was none the wiser. He said nothing during practice but afterward, he just stood there with Assistant Coach Dennis Shaw, hands on his hips.”
“You owe me 24 laps around that track,” Boone said. While Cook ran the track in his drenched uniform, Coach Shaw sat with his umbrella on the bleachers to count every single lap.
Coach Boone will be remembered by the ‘71 team as being “all about business” and as someone who enjoyed being on the water in his boat when he was not on the field or at the high school. He was the father of three. His wife died in April this year. He is survived by two daughters.
“He touched many lives and hearts across the world. He was inspirational for so many people, including me as one of his former students. Alexandria City Public Schools was fortunate to have him as an icon at such a critical time in our history. He will be dearly missed,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
A memorial service for legendary ‘71 Titan coach Herman Boone will be held at T.C. Williams High School, 3330 King Street, Alexandria at 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 28, 2019.
There will be a public viewing at the Lee Center, 1108 Jefferson Street, Alexandria on Friday, December 27 from 3-7 p.m.
There will be a family viewing from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, December 28 at Oakland Church, 3408 King Street, Alexandria.
ACPS staff are welcome to any of the above services.
Donations in Coach Boone’s name should be sent to: The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, 3330 King Street, Alexandria – attn: 71 Titans Scholarship