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Friday, February 26, 2016

Don't Forget Board Meeting on Saturday

The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association's Board will meet on Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the Eastman Board Room of the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex.

The meeting starts at 1 PM. 

Board members and interested parties are asked to be present.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Black History Program Postponed

The annual Black History program scheduled for the Lamplighter Theater has been postponed because of bad weather moving through upper East Tennessee tonight.

We'll let you know when it will be rescheduled.

As of 4 PM Sunday, February 14th, this is the scene of Kingsport from Bays Mountain, courtesy of WCYB-TV.

Click on the picture to make it larger.

Only a few buildings can be seen at the bottom of the picture.

Probably not a good idea to get out at all.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Board Meeting Rescheduled

Saturday's meeting of the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Board in Kingsport has been rescheduled because of the threat of bad weather.

The board meeting will now be on Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the Douglass Community Room at the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex in Riverview, promptly at 1 PM.

Please mark your calendars and plan to be there!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Douglass Alumni at the 2016 Kingsport Chamber of Commerce Banquet

It wasn't that long ago that the city of Kingsport was celebrating construction that many people thought would never happen.

It was the renovation project that saved the historic Douglass High School from the wrecking ball.  It also raised awareness of Kingsport's African-American community with its neatly-kept yards, well-mannered homes, and God-fearing people who, until then, felt one step behind the growth of the city.

The V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex opened its doors to all of Kingsport, and also its doors to history.

As Kingsport nears its 100th birthday, the theme of OneKingsport has the community celebrating its heritage, and a number of construction projects were honored by the city's Chamber of Commerce at its annual banquet on Saturday night, February 5, 2016.

Two of them have Riverview connections.

Eastman Chemical is nearing completion of its five-story global corporate business center, that is Riverview's next door neighbor. Estimated cost of the project is $74.3 million dollars and is the city's largest single building permit.


Also on the list, Brickyard Park which opened this past year beside Riverview, on the site of what local folklore has always referred to as 'Clay Hill.'  Paying homage to Riverview's former 'unofficial playground,' the largest baseball field will carry the name "Clay Hill Field."  The new recreation area costing $6.9 million dollars replaced the Eastman ballfields located on the site of the new corporate business center.

The Chamber touts the annual banquet as the largest annual Chamber of Commerce dinner in the country.  It was a sold-out crowd of more than 1,700 guests.

Douglass alumni were seen hob-knobbing with Kingsport's movers and shakers.  In attendance at the Sons and Daughters of Douglass table were Doug and Vivian Releford, Judy Blye, Thelma Waterson, Rodney Bradley, Wallace Ross, Jr. and Calvin Sneed.  Elsewhere were seen Van and Dorothy Dobbins.

They, along with the other guests feasted on grilled French pork chops, rice casserole, sweet potatos, and two berry ice cake.

Later, guests partied on the moon with... "Party On The Moon." The hit party band had everybody on their feet, dancing off the weight of what they'd just eaten, with a blend of old soul, new dance, and R & B!

The touch of old soul and R & B got into the memories of our folks.  There was just no sitting down when the favorites of old started reverberating through the halls of the Meadowview Convention Center's largest banquet hall.

As you can see, "Party On The Moon" got everybody into a party mood:

The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet, 2016.

It was one night... one moment....


The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association was proud to be a part of the celebration!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Coty" and Bob Deering: A Tribute to One of Douglass's Most "En-DEERING" Couples

In February, 2011 Douglass High School Football Coach Bob Deering passed away at his home in Westbury, New York.  His wife Coletta, affectionately known as "Coty" was, as she has always been, by his side.  His ability to push athletes to the best of their caliber was well-known and well-documented in the annals of the old Tri-State Athletic Conference, of which all the former African-American high schools in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia belonged to.

On January 31, 2016, his beloved "Coty" joined him in eternity, passing away.

The following is a never-published interview we did with Coty Deering and pictures of her at the couple's home in Westbury, on Long Island east of New York City.  Bob Deering had only passed away less than a year before.  As was her practice and even though we tried, Coty Deering never liked talking about herself, always deferring to the relationship she had with her late husband, as one.

How are you doing?

I'm doing fine.  I'm enduring all the changes that come along with being a senior citizen, like having problems with my eyes.  I recently had that taken care of, and hopefully for the best.  It's basically cataracts and glaucoma.

With Bob, I just couldn't see going to have surgery, so I just said I'd wait until I have a little more time to have it done.  I kept putting it off and putting it off and Bob was my excuse.  Even though he's gone, I'm still using that excuse because I'm scared (laughs).  The doctor wants to do surgery on the right eye.

Bob wouldn't let me be selfish.  He kept saying to me 'you gotta have this done,' and I would go to look for a spot to have it done, and then he'd say 'well, maybe we ought to wait until next week.'  He was still wanting to be 'Number One,' but we knew it had to be done sometime.  I just had other priorities, and he was it (laughs).

Do you miss him?

Oh Lord, yes.  Yeah.... He used to be such a pain in the neck and I wanted to wring his neck sometimes.  But he was my pain in the neck.  I miss him so much.

He got worse as he got sick, as most people do.  People start losing hope and start getting irritated because they can't do what they used to do.  I was fortunate enough to be able to appreciate what he was going through, but sometimes he could be exasperating.

Even with all that, I still miss him.

I look at his pictures every day and listen to the music I put together for his funeral.. I play that every time I get a chance.  He was just crazy about this particular CD.  Sometimes I'd be in another part of the house and he'd be sitting there at the table I had set up for his entertainment... he had his computer and his materials beside him and I would be upstairs trying to make up the bed and all of a sudden I'd hear 'Coty, Coty, COTY!'  It'd scare me to death.  I'd come rushing back down here, 'yeah Bob, what's the matter?'  He'd go 'put my music on for me.' 

I got him back, though.  I put that music on for his funeral... that's what I played.  When the service was over and all our friends were trying to talk to me, they were saying 'Coty, that was such a unique service,' said 'it was just beautiful.'  One friend told me the poetry in you just came out.'  My best friend who came down from Connecticut to put together my music for me the play the proper song at the right time, said 'Coty.. what I don't understand is, how on earth did you ever think of that?'  I said 'I don't know, Gigi.. I really don't know.'

I was sitting in the family room trying to figure it out, because Bob was not a church-going man.  He'd go to church if I had something going on there, a program or something... he'd go to support me and things like that.

That man hounded me about that CD for months and I think, maybe six months later after everything was over, I think that's when it started hitting me that me selecting that music was the right thing to do because I knew Bob liked it.  It really had nothing to do with me at all, but it was divine action.  My girlfriend had heard it and sent it to me.. I played it (Bob always said 'you play your music too loud) so that he could hear it upstairs and he got to liking it.  He'd come down or sometimes he'd ask me to come downstairs to turn it on, or come upstairs and turn it on. 

He loved that music so much.

Being the perfectionist that his players always said that he was, what do you think he would have thought of his funeral service?

It was him.  It was all him.  He probably wouldn't have changed a thing, probably would have said 'I don't believe how you did all this in such a short period of time,' but he knew I had the gift of gab (laughs).  When the program came down to acknowledgements, I didn't put anybody's name on the program on purpose because I wanted my niece and nephew to do it.  They were coming in from Long Beach, California and we'd just had a big snowstorm here in Westbury.. it was in the dead of winter.  I didn't know if they would be here in time for the service or not and I was afraid to put their names down for fear at the last minute, I might have to ask somebody else to do it if they didn't make it in time.  The minister told me I had done a wonderful job of getting everything set up.

I knew then that God had sent me in the right direction.  I was a little worried at first, but that set me at ease.

It was a military funeral.  Bob had been in the Air Force as a corporal.  He wasn't in there long.  I told him many times over our marriage that he only went in when he knew it was safe.  The war was over in 1945 and Bob and his best buddy went in service soon after that.  I kidded him that they were scared to go in before the war was over (laughs.  They knew they wouldn't have to go overseas.  He knew my sense of humor and we laughed about it all the time... that was the kind of relationship that we had.

Thank God we had humor, 'cause we had some rough times both in healthy times and the unhealthy times.

When we had to put him in hospice, I signed the papers because he had moved beyond the kid of care that would have helped him.. he passed away in February of 2011.

At the funeral when I got up to acknowledge everybody, they all thought I was going to read cards and things.  I thanked them all for taking time out of their schedules to be there for him and for coming out on this blustery winter day, we had gotten 20 inches of snow on the ground.  I told them, 'to me, Bob was an oak tree.  His development came from the support of people like you.  He had beautiful branches in his life, all the time he was growing up, and this beautiful oak tree that I married, would be the members of the Lipscomb and the Deering families, his mother and father's side,' and I had them all stand up.  That was his home family.  Then I said, 'on the other side of the tree and the branches, would the members of the Palmer family, my family stand up.'  I kept going and naming off branches of this big oak tree that was Bob Deering, family, co-workers and friends, golf players and ex-football players, neighbors and everybody else who had touched his life.  It was really nice.

I think I pulled it off, but I was still in a state of shock.

Everybody sure did love him because they had been touched by something he did, or something he said.

I got a beautiful note from one of his kids that played football for him... he lives in D.C. and he wrote me the most beautiful note, talking about how much Bob had inspired him and some of the things he'd taught him.  It had helped him become a grown man.

It's a beautiful thing to be remembered like that.

Tell me about Kingsport and Douglass High School.

Kingsport was Bob's first job.  He loved those kids that came through Douglass.  That was his connection to them.  He really loved them.  I think he saw in them, a place where he had been as a young man.  Bob had dropped out of college and decided he wasn't going back... that's when he and his buddy went off to the Army.  When he came back, his buddies went off to college, but he decided to run the streets... have a good time running with the boys working the coal mines in West Virginia who didn't go off to college.  Then, all of a sudden, he found out just how hard that life was.  That inspired him to go back to school.  Even until the last year of his job as a teacher, he would always remind his students to go to college and get the best rest of their education.  Many of his students have told me over the years 'Mr. Deering saved my life with that advice.'  He could identify with what they might end up going through and he gave them the knowledge that what they did at their high school graduations, could be very important... that THEY are important.  That when they come out of high school, they've got to go on to something better because if they don't, they won't be able to get jobs.  He was so far advanced.  A lot of football coaches as teachers would do A+B+C+D and that would be the end of it.  Bob would put something on there a little more personal toward his students, and he did it all of his teaching career. 

I had students come by and they would tell me 'Mrs. Deering, if it weren't for Mr. Deering, I don't know where I'd be today.'

He taught at Glencoe High School here in New York for 25 years, but while in Kingsport and Douglass, there wasn't much for him to do.  When the Douglass teams weren't playing, he'd be with the other coaches at Johnson City or Bristol playing poker.  He knew they were on the throes of getting rid of Douglass and he saw what was coming.  It really didn't bother him... I think he understood why the school was closing.

There was a rule in Kingsport that husbands and wives couldn't work together at the same school, so while he was teaching and coaching at Douglass, I got on as a secretary... there was only one black school in Kingsport, so where else was I going to work?  Nobody else would hire me.  Eventually, I got on with a school in Kentucky run by Horace Curry's father, and Bob would drop me off on Sunday night, then pick me up again on Friday's.  I only taught there a year and Mr. Curray wanted me to sign on for another year, but then I got a secretary job at Tennessee Eastman and went to work there.

If there is one last thing Bob Deering could have told his students, what would it have been?

It would have been 'boy, I sure did enjoy you kids.  I enjoyed working with you... you made my day... you made my year.'  He really loved those kids.  He put his heart into teaching them.  If he saw somebody not applying themselves, he'd say 'what are you doing, guy?  Where are you working now?  You can't do no better than that?'  That was the kind of person he was.  He was always trying to prod them to do better... encourage them to go on and do something better with their lives.

I remember when Mr. Deering and Mr. Gill would find boys smoking in the boys bathroom.  You'd see them coming down the hall towards the office.  Mr. Deering would have one or two of them by the arm and Mr. Gill would have one or two by the arm or the collar, marching them down to see Mr. Dobbins.

Mr. Gill was one of my best friends.  The first year that Bob was coaching at Douglass, he was taking the team up to Williamson, West Virginia, my hometown, to play a game.  Remember 'The Hatfields and the McCoys?'  That was less than 30 miles from where I was born and raised.  Well Bob had brought the boys up to Williamson one day in March to play basketball against my former high school.  We were due back in Kingsport that Sunday.  Mr. Gill had scheduled the Douglass School Chorus to sing at some event in Johnson City on Monday, and a lot of the basketball players also sang in the chorus.  

Because of a snowstorm that occurred while we were in Williamson, we had to literally crawl back over those mountains down through Kentucky and Virginia to get back home to Kingsport.  Mr. Gill was sitting over there at the school on pins and needles.  He was so mad at Bob he didn't know what to do (laughs).  He was sweating bullets, scared that Bob wasn't going to get back in time with the boys.

Duke Gray was one of them.. Donnie Willie Jones was in the chorus, Major Burnette was there I think.  Mr. Gill was upset because it was going to mess up his singing event.

I've seen Mr. Gill mad so many times and the memories come back to me so quickly.

Bob and I had good times and bad times in Kingsport.  I've always focused on the good times, because in life if you focus on the bad things, you'll never remember the good times.  

I'm so glad that the Douglass alumni have stayed together as a group.  It was really a good school that cared for its students and I'm glad that Bob had a part of that.  I just hope I was a good secretary (laughs).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

D-B alumni gearing up for third annual basketball game

this story courtesy the kingsport times-news


KINGSPORT — On Saturday, a little bit of history will come back to Kingsport when the third annual Dobyns-Bennett alumni basketball game tips off in the Buck Van Huss Dome.

Featuring up to 20 former players, such as Michael Mills and Coty and Gerald Sensabaugh, the alumni game will take place on Feb. 6. The doors will open at 5 p.m. with the game starting at 6 p.m. Tickets will be available for $5 with children four and under getting in free.

The event is put on by Frederick Smith, a 1993 graduate of D-B, and his wife through their organization called Best Foot Forward.
“D-B and the athletic program is dear to a lot of people's hearts," Smith said. "We get a lot of people coming out."
Not only is the game played out of love, but the money raised will go to one lucky D-B student in the form of a scholarship. Smith said his group will contact counselors at the school and get them to refer the names of students. Once the names are collected, one will be drawn out of a hat and receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Last year, the money raised went to Xena Taylor, who won an essay contest. The first year, the proceeds from the game went to the D-B Slam Dunk Club.
Smith said with this year being the third annual alumni game, organizing it has gotten easier. He said the first year was very tedious and very stressful because he had to contact players and coaches, find referees, security, cheerleaders and people to sell tickets. But now that the game is well established, organizing the event has become easier.
"I get people contacting me saying they want to play," he said. "It's still stressful but easier. Once it all comes together, it's worth it."
Registration is still open for people who would like to play in the game. Anyone wanting to play can visit Best Foot Forward's website at or visit the Facebook page for either Smith or Best Foot Forward. He said they are asking for jersey sizes and numbers.
Putting on an event like this would not be possible without sponsors, Smith said. Some of this year's sponsors include Mac's Medicine Mart, Soul Brand apparell and Citizen's Bank. Smith said it's not too late for area businesses interested in sponsoring the event.
The former players will be split up into two teams, featuring the schools iconic colors, maroon and gray. Smith said this year he may have the two coaches pick their teams. He said the first year names were picked out of a hat and then last year two captains picked their squads.
Not only is the game a chance for old teammates to reunite, but it also gives players from different eras a chance to play together. And it gives players a chance to relive some of their childhood.
"You get to play in the dome again, where we shed blood, sweat and tears," he said. "That makes it all worth it."