Hall of Fame coach Lum Wright Sr., 86, dies
Published 10:40 pm Friday, September 9, 2016
Lum Wright Sr., the football coach who helped turn Warren Central into a Mississippi powerhouse in the 1970s and ’80s, died Thursday. He was 86.
Wright won 361 games in a 45-year coaching career that included stops in Texas, at Warren Central, Port Gibson High School and Chamberlain-Hunt Academy.
In 2004, the Warren County native was inducted into the National Federation of High Schools Hall of Fame.
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“There has never been a better motivator of young men I’ve ever been around,” said Gary Wright, one of his four sons. “He took boys and molded them into men. Those that listened and those that did what was asked became very successful and very influential in our society, and that was what he was about.
“He touched so many lives. He received numerous honors. We’re — his sons and his players — probably more proud and honored of the wins than he was.
“It was nice to receive the awards and he enjoyed that part of it, but it was just about working with the young men.”
Wright was born in Yokena on July 3, 1930. He served in Korea and graduated from Mississippi College before getting his first job as a football coach in 1954. Originally offered a job at Jett High School, he instead went west to Ed Couch High School in Elsa, Texas, because it paid better.
Wright later moved on to other high schools in Mission and Gilmer, Texas, before returning home to become Warren Central’s head coach in 1971.
“I told my wife, let’s go try it for one year.’ Seventeen years later we came back home,” Wright said in a 2004 Vicksburg Post article. “Texas will grow on you. I’m not surprised a lot of my boys went back out there.”
Warren Central had opened in 1965 and did not have a winning season until Wright arrived. His first team finished 9-2 and beat St. Aloysius 34-0 in the Red Carpet Bowl.
Wright’s second team in 1972 had a 3-5-2 record, but he never had another losing season after that. Using a power running game and stifling defense, he led Warren Central to five Little Dixie Conference championships — the equivalent of a state title in the days before the Mississippi High School Activities Association had a statewide playoff system — and undefeated seasons in 1974, 1978, and 1979.
“Coach Wright was an institution not only in this county, but around Mississippi when it comes to football,” said State Sen. Briggs Hopson III, who played for him at Warren Central.
“He was known for having teams that were tough, disciplined, and hard working and adjustable. A lot of great players were developed under his tutelage.”
“He was a good coach. He was a good man overall,” said Carl Blue, who played running back at Warren Central from 1978-80. “I could go to him and talk to him about anything. He was just like a father to us, and he had standard he wasn’t going to change for nobody. That was ‘don’t quit.’
“He called the plays, but if I could find out where to reverse field, he let me do that.”
Wright stepped down as Warren Central’s coach in 1984, but returned to the sidelines the following year at Port Gibson.
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.
Wright retired from Port Gibson in 1992, but it wasn’t long before he returned to coaching. He 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.
He finally retired in 2000, at the age of 70 and with 361 wins on his resumé.
He has been inducted into five different halls of fame, including the National Federation of High Schools. He’s one of only four Mississippians in the national hall of fame.
Wright also influenced another generation of coaches who followed him. All four of his sons — Lum Jr., Gary, Keith and Tim — have coached high school football. Keith Wright played in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, and Lum Jr. won a high school state championship in 1989 while coaching at Magee.
When the Wrights lived in Texas, the family befriended a young child named Bobby Jack Wright — no relation — who became almost like an adopted son. Bobby Jack Wright went on to serve on the coaching staff of Oklahoma’s national championship team in 2000.
“He was influential in my life. I played for him and grew up with his four sons, and he was like a father figure for me and did a lot for me besides the fact of being my coach,” Bobby Jack Wright said. “My parents were divorced, and he was kind of the father figure in my life.
“I grew up at a very young age knowing I wanted to be a football coach, just being around him and watching him, learning from him, I knew during my junior high years that’s what I wanted to be, a football coach.”
Wright, who played for Lum Wright in Mission, Texas, called Wright “a very special man. He did so much for young people; did so much for the students, whether you were one of his players or not.
“He was demanding, he instilled a lot of pride, a lot of discipline, toughness, love for the game, doing it the right way, respect for the game, and respect for other people, respect for your opponent.”
Services for Wright will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Frank J. Fisher Funeral Home in Vicksburg. Burial will follow at Yokena Cemetery.
Visitation is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and at 10 a.m. Wednesday prior to the funeral service.