Wright celebrates birthday with high honor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 6, 2004

[7/6/04]Lum Wright celebrated his 73rd birthday with a little sun, a little sand, and a lot of praise.

Wright, a Warren County native and former football coach at Warren Central, Port Gibson, and Chamberlain-Hunt Academy, was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame Monday night in San Diego. The ceremony came two days after Wright’s birthday.

He is just the fourth Mississippian to be elected to the hall, and the first coach from the state to earn the honor. Another Mississippi coach, Lindy Callahan, is also in the hall, but was inducted as an athletic director.

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Attempts to reach Wright this morning on the West Coast were unsuccessful.

Wright won 361 games during his 46-year coaching career, which started at Ed Couch High School in Elsa, Texas, in 1954. After 17 years, two more schools, and 122 wins, Wright came home in 1971 to take the reins at Warren Central.

The Vikings turned into a powerhouse almost overnight, thanks to Wright and his sons. Keith and Lum Wright Jr. who were among only five players at the first team meeting in 1971 both went on to play college football at Memphis, and were part of their father’s first WC team that went 9-2.

WC endured a losing season in 1972, going 3-5-2. It was the last time the elder Wright finished below .500 at WC.

Over the next 12 years, he guided the Vikings to a pair of 27-game winning streaks, 126 wins, five Little Dixie Conference titles, and three Red Carpet Bowl titles.

“We knew we had potential, and there was no doubt he gave us leadership and got us going,” former WC coach Robert Morgan said after Wright’s selection to the hall of fame in March. “He got it going quicker than it probably would have, just because of know-how and determination.”

Wright left WC in 1984, but continued his career at Port Gibson the following season and began resurrecting another program.

The Blue Waves didn’t field a team in 1983, but won five of their last seven games in Wright’s first season in 1985 to finish 6-5. Over the eight years Wright was at PG, the Blue Waves won 66 games.

One of those was his 300th career victory, a 50-6 rout of Crystal Springs in September 1991. He is one of a handful of coaches in the country to reach that milestone.

Wright retired from Port Gibson in 1992, but it wasn’t long before he returned to coaching. He simply moved up the street, to Chamberlain-Hunt, where he won 35 games in his first five seasons more than the Wildcats had won in the previous 22 years combined.

Wright retired from coaching for good in 2000, after leading CHA to its eighth straight winning season.

Another Mississippi sports legend joined Wright in the NFHS Hall of Fame on Monday. Former Southern Miss punter Ray Guy, a standout quarterback, defensive back, punter and kicker at Thomson (Ga.) High School from 1965-69, also was elected.

Guy led his high school football teams to two state championships and was runner-up as Georgia high school player of the year.

At Southern Miss, he recorded a 77-yard punt in his first game and led the NCAA in punting in 1972 with a 46.2 average. He was a unanimous all-America choice as a senior, the first in school history. During his three seasons at USM, Guy averaged 44.7 yards per punt and had three punts in excess of 70 yards, including a 93-yarder.