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Story Archives: Stampley proud of support at Vidalia
|Stampley proud of support at Vidalia|
Fate brought Walter Stampley to Vidalia. The town and its people kept him here ever since.
"I planned on staying here six weeks," Stampley said. "I've been here for more than 60 years."
Stampley, who is in the Copiah-Lincoln Community Sports Hall of Fame and received the Distinguised American Award from the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame in 2001, was born in Hazlelhurst, Ms.
At Hazlehurst High School, Stampley was named Mississippi Player of the Year as a running back. He received a scholarship offer from Tennessee and planned to attend until being drafted in the Army.
Stampley served in World War II's China-Burma-India Theater of Operations while in the Army from July 1943 to January 1946.
Upon returning home, Stampley enrolled at Co-Lin and became a standout on the Wolves' football team.
In 2000, he was inducted into the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Athletic Hall of Fame after receiving All-State honors while playing fullback and linebacker. He then attended the University of Wyoming before finishing up his studies at Mississippi Southern. He was unable to play football at Mississippi Southern because his eligibility ran out.
The 85-year-old Stampley graduated from Mississippi Southern in December of 1949 and was looking for a coaching job.
Vidalia High basketball coach Thomas Patten died in a drowning accident on the Mississippi River in March of 1950.
"I saw where there was a opening for a coaching position in Vidalia," said Stampley, whose parents resided in Natchez at the time. "I applied for the job even though I didn't know a sole in Vidalia. I didn't hear anything until about four or five weeks later when the superintendent (J.S. Burris) called me and asked if I could report to work on Monday."
Stampley, who would serve as the basketball and baseball coach, said he had no intention of telling anyone he was not planning on staying long because he wanted to coach football.
"About that time, the Mississippi River Bridge became a free bridge and I thought Vidalia would start to grow, which it did," Stampley said. "I decided to stay another year."
Stampley taught five different classes and did all the coaching at the school for $2,900 a year.
"But it wasn't for the money," he said. "I enjoyed being around the athletes."
Stampley then began discussing with principal Clyde Smith the possibility of organizing a football team.
"Clyde Smith gave me the go-ahead," Stampley said. "I had about 20-to-22 boys say they were interested. I was young enough to think I could take those boys and beat Notre Dame."
Stampley said there was no sporting goods store in the area selling football equipment at the time.
"I had to order our equipment from a New York company," Stampley said. "When they arrived, the man from the railroad depot company called me and said I had a package. I asked him, 'How much do I owe you?' He said, '$600.' We didn't have a penny of any kind or an athletic account."
It was at that time, Stampley found out what kind of community he had become a part of in Vidalia.
"The support was unbelieveable," he said. "There were so many people too numerous to mention who took a real interest in what we were doing. Whatever we needed, they got together and did it."
The late Sidney Murray, who was an alderman at the time before going on to serve as mayor of Vidalia from 1960-84, spearheaded the effort.
Murray told the Cocnordia Sentinel in 1985 how the town helped Stampley begin the football program.
"I went to City Attorney Nathan Calhoun and asked if the Town could buy the uniforms and donate them to the team," Murray was quoted as saying. "He told me we could not legally do it, but could possibly make a loan to the school."
He said, "I went to Mayor Jack Dale and he said he had no objections to making such a loan if the Town Council approved it. I then contacted every member of the Town Council and gained their approval. At the next meeting we approved the loan with Mayor Dale's blessings."
"Half of them didn't know how to put their uniforms on," Stampley said.
Vidalia's first-ever home football game was played at the high school, which was then located where the Vidalia Upper Elementary currently sits near the levee.
"Billy Priester donated the officials for the ball game," Stampley said. "We had to dress out in the swimming pool dressing room."
Vidalia lost to Jefferson Military Academy 19-0 in its first game.
There was no press box, but Murray helped out at the park announcing the games.
"Holsum Bread Company had a truck with a record player, a speaker and a microphone," Murray told the Sentinel. "At the start of the games, I crawled in the truck and put an old scratchy record on, playing the Star Spangled Banner to get the game started. I then gave the play by play action, as best I could. It was difficult to see what was happening on the playing field at all times."
The first games were played in the afternoon.
The Vikings would earn their first-ever win against Jefferson Military College, winning 14-6 as Arnell Tipton scored the first-ever Vidalia touchdown.
Vidalia lost to Ferriday's "B" team 40-0, but tied them in a rematch the next week, 13-13. The Vikings finished 1-6-1.
In 1953, Vidalia went 3-4-1, including a 12-0 loss at Gilbert.
"That was a night game and one of our followers said if Gilbert had lights then why can't we get lights in Vidalia," Stampley said. "Sidney Murray also worked at Johns-Manville and he helped work out an arrangement where Manville swapped out pilings for poles with Crosby Lumber Company. The City of Vidalia help put the poles, cross-ties and lights up."
Vidalia lost to Louisiana Technical College 18-0 in its first game under the lights.
"Some fans said the reason we lost was because the players were admiring the lights too much," Stampley said.
Stampley said the Vidalia Quarterback Club was instrumental in the early success of the program.
"The Quarterback Club took care of parking, took up money and helped out all around," Stampley said. "They would meet on Thursdays before home games and 40-to-50 people would show up for the meetings."
Stampley finished with a 20-29-5 overall record.
"In a few years we got to winning a few ball games and you almost had to close the town down when we went out of town to play," Stampley said. "It was never about my record. My thrill came from how the community supported us in every way possible. We weren't very successful to start with, but the more kids who came out, the more success we had."
Stampley's final season as head football coach was in 1957.
Stampley was named principal of Vidalia High in 1958 and Dan Chase took over as head coach.
"Coach Stampley kept everybody under control," said Bill McDonough, who played for Stampley until his senior year when Stampley became principal. "He thought he could make a ball club that could beat anybody, but he really didn't have the material. He was an outstanding coach and principal. He loved basketball just as much as he loved football. He really cared about what he was doing. He was dedicated to what he did."
Vidalia High was moved from by the levee to it current location in 1961, the same year Melz Field Stadium was built at Ferriday High.
Stampley served as principal until 1978.
"I missed coaching, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity," Stampley said.
"Coach Stampley was a strict discliplinarian and ran the show," said former Vidalia High head coach Dee Faircloth. "The staff knew they had to be on their Ps and Qs. He loved every kind of challenge."
Stampley knew serving as principal would be just as tough as coaching.
"I never had anybody walk into my office to say what an outstanding job I was doing," Stampley said. "They had something else on their mind."
Stampley said games he will always remember were a 27-13 upset of Cathedral in 1956 and the first win over Ferriday in 1961 when he was principal. And, of course, the state championship game in 1966.
"We punted to Pat McDonough of Cathedral, who was back to receive the ball," Stampley said of the 1956 game. "John Holland went down and touched the ball and turned around and walked off the field. Pat grabbed the ball and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. I argued with the official. He told me, 'Coach, the only thing that kills the ball is my whistle.' They were offsides on the extra point and then they tried to run it and didn't make it. Then we scored and went up 7-6."
Vidalia recorded its first win over Ferriday in 1961 as Chase led the Vikings to a 13-7 win over the Trojans.
"The field at the new school wasn't ready, so we had to play one more year by the levee," Stampley said. "Jim Stringer was our quarterback. He threw a pass to Maurice Greer for the winning touchdown. Ferriday people argued from daylight to dark that Jim was over the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball. But the officials said he was not."
Stampley served as principal during the head coaching reigns of Chase, Fred Foster, Don Alonzo and Dee Faircloth for 10 years.
"We've sent 50-to-60 boys off to college to play ball," Stampley said
Stampley retired from the Concordia Parish School system in June 1979 and was elected to the Concordia Parish School system in 1981, where he served for 14 years.
"I raised my family here and they all went to school here," Stampley said. "There are real good people here. And I just can't get over how much they supported us. I still have contact with kids who played for me and were students when I was principal. One called me the other day and said he couldn't let Christmas go by without getting in touch with me and thanked me for playing a big part in his life. That's the biggest reward of all."
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