One of the most predominant figures in the history of AHS, was coach Abe
McLaughlin. Just the mere mention of his name brought respect. He
was just as much a fixture as anyone you could think of. Coach went
to work at AHS in 1936, and was the winningest coach in Greenbrier county.
However, in my 12 years in the Alderson school system, I had very little
contact with the man. The only conversation I remember having with
him, out side my year of geometry under his teaching, was a conversation
about his collie dog. With his stoic expression, he seemed almost
untouchable. But, the boys who were under the Coach in sports, had
a different view.
David Shields, G'58, remembers. Coach McLaughlin was, without question,
the single most influential adult I've ever encountered, bar none! I've lived
60 years now, and I haven't amounted to much. But what I am I owe to Abe
McLaughlin and, to some lesser degree, a few other adults associated with
Alderson High School . It's true, I was an athlete--one of Abe's troopers!
And I achieved some degree of excellence in the sports in which I participated,
at least by the standards of the time and place. I've been associated with
some great athletes, coaches, and leaders both on the college and professional
levels all my life, but I have never ever been as awe-struck and moved and
motivated and inspired as I was in the 1950's by the simple, unassuming,
soft-spoken man who coached at Alderson High School from 1936 until 1961.
I've thought about this long and hard, and I can say unequivocally that Abe
McLaughlin is (was) the greatest of the greatest. And, believe it or not,
these sentiments have very little to do with sports. So what made the man
great? I don't suppose anyone knows how greatness comes to a man. It
just comes, and it's there, and you feel it. And when the man passes, the
greatness remains--an indelible mark etched in the soul of those whom he
touched. That mark is the singular legacy of the man whom some called "Mac"
and some others called "Abe." But those of us in whom the mark burns the
hottest called him simply "Coach," after the profession he practiced with
such uncommon skill. But make no mistake, the true measure of this man is
not to be found in his remarkable won-loss records. It is found in his
extraordinary humanity, in his citizenship, in the role he played as a husband
and father, and in the hearts and souls of us who encountered him, in the
belief in ourselves that he taught us and the grit he sowed in our guts and
in the crystal-clear and simple values that he demonstrated.
Caraway, G'53, remembers. He was a great teacher as well as coach.
I was manager for him for four years and enjoyed every minute of it.
One thing probably very few people knew, in 1952 or 53, he took the
football team to Charlottesville, Va. to see West Virginia University play
the University of Virginia. At half time he left us for a while,
and on the way home that night he told me that he went for an interview for
a coaching job at U.V. He turned them down. He said his goal
in life was to help mold young men and he thought he could do more for them
at the high school level, and I agree. He did a lot for everyone he
had contact with. I learned a lot about him on that ride from
Charlottesville to Alderson. It was the first time he had opened up
and talked about his life in football. On that trip back from
Charlottesville, Coach told me about his high school football. He said,
"It's a lot different now than when I played." "Back then, the other
team found out who the best man on the team was and tried to hurt him bad
enough that he would have to leave the game." "I sure had to watch
out." They played six man football and he played, coached, and was
probably the water boy too. They wouldn't have had football at Hillsboro,
if hadn't been for him.