Murray succumbs

Published 11:44 am Friday, May 2, 2014

AHOSKIE – The “Bear Nation” is in mourning again.

On the heels of the death of Hall of Fame Coach Daryl Allen earlier this year comes the news of the death of Allen’s longtime friend and coaching colleague, Richard Murray.

Coach Murray passed away on Thursday at his home. He was 76.

With the two coaching legends on the sideline, Ahoskie, and then Hertford County High School combined to win well over 300 football games, to include won two state championships and four Eastern State Championships.

Murray also served the two schools as Athletic Director and teacher for a total of 38 years. After retiring from Hertford County Public Schools, Murray served as a teacher and coach at Ridgecroft School for four years.

Tommy Mitchell of Ahoskie recalls when Murray first arrived at what was then Ahoskie High School (later to become Hertford County High).

“Richard came over in the mid 1960’s from Harrellsville High School; he and I became fast friends,” Mitchell said. “We worked together back then with the jayvee (football) team….we had some great times. He was all about trying new things and the boys really liked him as a coach; he had a knack of getting tough on the boys and doing it in a nice way.”

Mitchell said Murray also coached the boys and girls basketball teams.

“Everyone thought the world of Richard; he got along so well with the students….I recall one student saying that he was the only teacher that everyone liked,” Mitchell reminisced. “He was an easy going man, very smart and a great family man.”

When head football coach and Athletic Director Al Vaughan left Ahoskie High in the early 1970’s, Murray climbed the ladder to the AD office.

“Richard was the perfect man for that job,” Mitchell noted. “He was a natural when it came to organization; he knew what it took to get the job done and you can believe me when I say that when Richard Murray tackled any job, it was done right.”

Mitchell also praised Murray for his never-ending quest to see the athletic program at the school to always put sportsmanship first.

“Richard took pride in sportsmanship and he led by example as he always got along with the coaches and AD’s at other schools. He took care of business in a friendly, down to earth way,” Mitchell concluded.

Eddie Allen, the son of Coach Allen, told of the special bond between the two families.

“Coach Murray and dad were not only coaching colleagues, they were the best of friends,” Allen stated. “I know that Coach Murray was sad when dad passed away, but he did get to the hospital to see him the day before he died. That meant a lot to daddy.”

Allen called Murray his “second father.”

“He was always there for me, growing up and then later when I became a coach,” he stressed. “I was always in awe when around Coach Murray. He was so well organized. One of the things I’ll remember forever is always seeing him with his clipboard. He carried it everywhere; he would always jot down things he needed to do.

“I hate that we’ve lost Coach Murray, but I’m glad he’s no longer suffering. His time here on Earth is done, but what a life he lived,” Allen concluded.

Murray also touched the lives of the thousands of student-athletes that passed through the doors of Harrellsville, Ahoskie and Hertford County high schools as well as RidgecroftSchool.

“Coach Murray gave me my first job back in 1991 at Hertford CountyHigh School,” said Scott Privott, former Hertford County High football player and later coach. “He was a professional man and a businessman in addition to being a coach and athletic director. He knew how to treat people and he was a pleasure to work under. We didn’t work together long, because he retired in 1993-94; but he believed in the fundamentals and the details. No matter how small an item was – it mattered. He also always taught us how to get along with people.”

Another former HCHS student-athlete, Brian Overton, now the Director of Football Operations at East Carolina University, said the Bear Nation has now lost two giants.

“It’s really sad, Coach Murray and Coach Allen passing away so close together and all,” Overton remarked. “Coach Murray always kept up with my career both in high school and later in college.  When he would see my parents here in Ahoskie he would always ask about me, and I always really appreciated that. But that was Coach Murray: a genuine guy who genuinely cared about his players.

“All the guys who played for him loved him. Even though he wasn’t the head coach he still commanded the respect of all of us.  He was a legacy in this area; whenever you hear about Ahoskie High or Hertford County High football he will always be a part of that.  I really appreciate his support,” Overton added.

When Murray retired, Charles Simmons stepped in to fill the AD seat at HCHS.

“Coach Murray was a friend, a mentor, and a person I had the utmost respect for,” Simmons said. “He brought me in in 1980 as a basketball coach and he was very instrumental in my becoming athletic director later here at Hertford County High School.  Back in those days he and Coach Daryl Allen both coached all three: football, basketball, and baseball.  In the  mid-nineties when word got out that he was considering retirement he told me about his plans and that he wanted me to be his replacement.  When he did retire, he set up everything in such a way that it was a smooth transition.

“Some retirees take it all when they leave; Coach Murray wasn’t like that,” Simmons added. “He left more here than he took away.  He was one of the most fair, most honest, most respected  and straight-forward type of person was had respect from both blacks and whites. He respected people, and they respected him back.”

Randy Whitaker,  former baseball player/coach, and Bertie High Athletic Director, recalled the bond he formed with Murray.

“When I got into coaching, I would see Coach Murray and Coach Allen at conferences and clinics and it was always a pleasure to be in their presence because I learned so much from them just standing around and listening.  Coach Murray was always easy to talk to and he did a lot for athletics in this area on the state level because he was so well known.  He was always there to help me out whenever he could and I will really miss him,” Whitaker said.

Funeral services for Murray are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 4 at Union Baptist Church, where he served as a Deacon, Sunday School Teacher, and on the Building and Grounds, and Finance committees.

Visitation with the family will be from 7 – 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 3 at Garrett-Sykes Funeral Service, Ahoskie.