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Obituaries

Herman Boone, the high school football coach portrayed in ‘Remember the Titans,’ dies

Obit Herman Boone Football
Herman Boone instructs his players at Virginia’s T.C. Williams High School in the championship year of 1971. Boone, the coach who inspired the movie “Remember the Titans,” has died.
(Associated Press)

With his health declining, Herman Boone was still mapping out football strategy as if he were about to walk the sidelines one more time.

“His daughter said the other night he asked for a clipboard. He started drawing plays,” said Aly Khan Johnson, an assistant on Boone’s staff in 1972.

Boone, the Virginia high school football coach who inspired the 2000 movie “Remember the Titans,” died Wednesday after battling cancer. He was 84. Boone guided T.C. Williams High School to a state championship while navigating the early days of desegregation. In the movie, he was portrayed by Denzel Washington.

Johnson said he was planning to pay one of his regular visits to Boone when he learned that the coach had died at his home in Alexandria, Va. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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Johnson recalled Boone as being one of the influential coaches in his career and a personal person. Their association went back to the 1960s, when Boone coached at a black high school in Williamston, N.C., and Johnson lived down the block. He said they would sometimes run plays that Boone had drawn up.

“What I picked up from coach Boone all those years was his dedication to young people, being organized and being persistent in doing what you’re doing, planning ahead,” Johnson said.

Herman Boone
Herman Boone, the coach featured in the movie “Remember the Titans,” peering over the headdress of a Shoshone-Bannock dancer to speak to a large crowd in Pocatello, Idaho, in 2005.
(Joshua Duplechian / Idaho State Journal)

Johnson said he lived with Boone for a month after he graduated from college and recalled how the two would analyze the team.

“I’d watch him take the projector out, point it at the bathroom wall, review plays and so forth, until late at night,” he said. “You saw that dedication.”

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The Rocky Mount, N.C.-born Boone led undefeated Williams to the state championship in 1971. His team’s success was recognized as a galvanizing factor in helping bring the city through school consolidation.

Much of “Remember the Titans” covers the team’s uphill battle to win the state championship over 15 all-white teams. It has to overcome vindictive opponents, racist coaches and crooked referees.

“When I got there, you saw kids work together, hung out together,” Johnson said. “It was a brotherhood that you would see. As you know, athletics does something for a community, and it happened at the right time for that community.”


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