Tuesday, February 21, 2017

80 Year Old Coach Baker Caregiver for 103 Year Old Father "A Black History Story"

African American Coach Walter Dale Baker is a hero to many athletes who attended the Louisville Public School System – especially those that attended Louisville Colored High School and/or Louisville Negro High School. Today, Coach Baker and his wife Delores are heroes to his father, Ezra Baker, who turned 103 years old November 14, 2016. They have been his caregivers for over 10 years. Coach Baker and his father are great role models for other African American boys and men. Coach Baker talks admirably about his father always being there for him throughout his life as a student, an athlete, coach and teacher. He stated, “Daddy was at the games on the sideline cheering for me or the teams I coached. I will not leave him alone. When he asked for someone to live with him after my mother Virgie Lee Baker passed, my wife Delores and I did not hesitate to move from our house across the street from him into his home as his caregivers.”

This story is centered on the Crisis in Black Education which is the theme for the 2017 Black History Month and about a man who helped with the crisis locally. Coach Baker was a student, teacher and coach of the Louisville Public School District during racial segregation and after desegregation in 1970. As an athlete, he played football, basketball, baseball and ran track. He was the Trojan’s football MVP when he graduated. Coach Baker graduated from the segregated Louisville Colored High School (LCHS), Louisville, MS in May 1957, with Professor L. C. Eiland as principal. He was an exceptional Trojan football quarterback and subsequently received a scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas (UAPB), formerly known as Arkansas A. M. & N. College. The university is a historically black university which was established in 1873 with the Golden Lions as the nickname - black and gold as its colors. Coach Baker won the James (Smiley) Gay trophy as outstanding athlete of the year at UAPB for football and baseball his senior year in 1961.

After college graduation, Coach Baker returned to teach and coach at LCHS in 1961. He touched the lives of many young men positively because of his love for football, baseball, basketball and track. Not only did he teach and coach but he became a counselor for many in their personal lives as well as in their higher educational goals. Bernis ‘Peaches’ Hoskin appreciatively talked about him, “He was my mentor and he taught me how to play football. He helped me to receive a scholarship to his alma mater and to Mississippi Valley State University; however, I chose to attend Lea College in Minnesota. He was always just a phone call away throughout my high school and college days.” Coach Baker was instrumental in helping other athletes to receive scholarship from his Alma Mater in Pine Bluff among those were Billy Gene Austin, John ‘Bone’ Edwards, and Russell Manson. Coach Baker loved his job and did it well with a smile. He and his father had an open door policy at their homes for athletes whose they mentored.

The 1965 Seniors of LCHS dedicated their Annual to the Trojans football team and coaches which stated, “Louisville High School has shown strength as a powerful football machine undefeated and untied in 1964.” Coaches Baker, Hudson and Taylor were the winning coaches. The transition during desegregation was tough but Coach Baker ‘weathered the storm’ and later became a winning coach for the 9th Grade Basketball team when they became the Big 7 Champions 1987-88 with score 17-0. He coached a winning Trojans’ track team in 1964-65 at the LCHS with team members: Bernis Peaches Hoskin, Bobby Hardin, Earl Graham, Bennie Jackson, Johnnie Edwards, Eddie Eichelberger, Charles Triplett and John Newell. Coach Baker became the Wildcats’ head basketball coach at Louisville High School (LHS) for school year 1993-94.
The Mississippi Association of Coaches awarded Coach Baker for being a coach for 25 years, and for being a teacher and promotion of ideals for which the coach profession stands. He retired from the school district in 1995 with a retirement plaque that reads: In appreciation for his 34 years of service, devotion, and loyalty to this Louisville Municipal school whose guidance, example and love as a coach and teacher have touched the lives of all his students and co-workers. Coach Baker’s wife, Delores Miller-Baker retired from Louisville High School as a Special Education teacher after 28 years in 2004.

Coach Baker and Delores are the proud parents of 3 sons and one daughter. They, like his parents, supported their children throughout their school years. Their daughter Jacqueline Miller (now deceased) was the first Black Rifle girl in the band at LHS. She performed in the band from 6th – 12th grade. Son Cedrick Baker played as a quarterback at LHS and at Mississippi College, Clinton, MS. He presently works for the Nationwide Insurance Company as a Large Loss Property Manager for the states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky and he volunteers as a coach at Clinton High School. He became the first African American Casualty Manager in the State of Mississippi while an employee of Travelers Insurance. 

 He has over 25 years of experience in the insurance business. The LHS Wildcats were the Class 4-A State Champions – Rated # 2 Mississippi Super 10 in 1985 while son Roderick Baker was quarterback. Roderick was named the National High School Football ALL-AMERICA in 1986 by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. He also played at Jackson State University. Their son, DeAngelas Baker was in the LHS band playing the snare drums and presently works for Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). The Bakers have four grandsons and 3 granddaughters. Two 10th grade grandsons are presently competing against one another as football players at Northwest Rankin High School, Flowood, MS and Clinton High School, Clinton, MS.With people like the Bakers, hopefully, the Crisis in Black Education will continue to improve. Coach Baker has made a great contribution to the Winston County community and his former students and co-workers are grateful.