Retired C-N baseball coach dies
Retired Carson-Newman College Head Baseball Coach Bobby Wilson, 84, died today following a courageous fight against cancer. In Wilson's first year as C-N baseball head coach his squad won the 1965 NAIA National Championship.
Robert A. Wilson, Assistant Professor Emeritus of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, was a faculty member and coach at Carson-Newman College from 1964 until his retirement in 1990.
Born on January 11, 1924, Wilson was a native of Piedmont, Alabama who entered the U.S. Army directly after high school graduation. He served in the European Theater from 1943 to 1946 as a member of a coast artillery unit.
After an honorable discharge, Wilson began his undergraduate career at the University of Mississippi. There, he lettered in both football and baseball and amassed a dozen SEC records on the gridiron. Named last year by the Mobile Press-Register as a member of the All Southeastern Conference 75-Year Anniversary football team, Wilson as a defensive back collected 20 interceptions, for a combined 379 yards returned, during his Ole Miss career.
In his senior year, the All-SEC baseball player was named captain of the team. He was subsequently drafted by both the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Eagles, but chose to pursue a baseball career. After a three-year minor league career for the Reds, he taught and coach football and baseball in Mississippi public schools for 12 years, winning conference titles and coach-of-the-year honors at both Canton and Greenwood.
In 1964, legendary Carson-Newman College baseball coach Frosty Holt wanted an assistant baseball coach who could also help with football. Said to have liked the style of Ole Miss's Johnny Vaught, he called on Vaught for a recommendation. Wilson was hired in the summer of 1964. In 1965, he was named head coach after Holt took ill. That year, C-N won the NAIA National Championship, the first athletic national title in the Jefferson City institution's history. (The football team would go on win five NAIA titles under Ken Sparks in the 1980s.)
In the 23 years Wilson coached C-N's Eagles baseball team, the squad won the NAIA Conference Championship 11 times, including 10 consecutive titles from 1965 through 1974. Roy Hill, Danny Pierce and Clyde "Chico" Wright, who would go on to pitch for the California Angels, were named Baseball All-Americans for the 1965 season.
Honors for Wilson included induction into the NAIA Baseball Hall of Fame (1986), as wells as membership in both Ole Miss's and Carson-Newman's athletic halls of fame. He was, for four years, a member of the committee that successfully had baseball added as a sport (exhibition) in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics before it received full status in time for the 1992 games.
Other memberships included the American Football Coaches Assocaiton (40 years), the Jefferson City Lions Club (39 years, including one year served as president), Carson-Newman's Community and College Council (3 years), and Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce (15+ years). A member of Jefferson City's First Baptist Chuirch for more than 40 years, Wlison served as a deacon, Sunday school teacher and on a number of committees. He is survived by his wife, Martha B. Wilson, who also retired as a C-N physical education professor. (UNC Lady Tarheels Coach Sylvia Hatchell notes Mrs. Wilson and one of the major influences of her life.) The couple has one son, Rob, who also lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Bari, and their daughters, Sarah, Hannah and Leah.
Jefferson City's Farrar Funeral Home will handle arrangements, which are expected to be later next week.