By Jim Freeman
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Anytime I missed a call from Coach Ron Murray, the message would be the same, “tell him to call coach.” Whoever answered the phone here at WLAF knew it was Coach Murray.
Murray’s life was loaded with rubbing elbows and working with some of the sports world’s greatest coaches and players of all time. Related story. He had a knack for getting to know people and making connections. If it wasn’t in person, it was by telephone. Ron Murray was quite likely the only person in the world to have worked for Coach General Robert Neyland and Coach Adolph Rupp.
Joe Rexrode, then a columnist for The Tennessean out of Nashville, is now senior staff writer for The Athletic. Though while he was still at The Tennessean, he came out to La Follette in October 2017 to interview Coach Murray. HERE is the story, on camera interview and numerous photos from the visit to Coach’s South Avenue home.
October 6, 2019, was the last time Coach visited the radio station, and I guess, for a final time visit, not aware it was at the time, it could not have been anymore special. There were plenty of old Owls and old annuals from La Follette High School there that morning. The gathering was State Representative Dennis Powers idea so he could present Coach with a House Joint Resolution prepared for Coach Ron Murray. Related story.
The ceremony was short as expected though the event turned into a two-hour reunion of sharing stories and reliving Owl victories and milestones. Kelly, Murray’s son, had one of the funniest stories of the morning. He told of the time he started playing organized basketball, and his dad told him to always do what the coach said. The younger Murray became quite confused when his coach was coaching him from the bench and his father was coaching him from the stands. Kelly finally gave up and asked his coach what he was supposed to do, and his coach said, “Listen to your dad.”
The last time I visited coach was to take him basketball schedules for Campbell County, Kentucky and Tennessee which was a ritual for football and basketball seasons. Still sharp as a tack though his mobility was not quite what he would’ve liked.
Every time this past year or two when coach would call, I would have the thought that there’ll be a day these phone calls quit coming. Last Thursday was that day. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/25/2022-6AM)
A response from Shirley Fox Rogers:
Anytime he called our home in the past 45 plus years, whether i answered the phone, or the Answering Machine did, the messages was always the same, “Shirley, tell Mike to call Coach”. I don’t pretend to be speaking for everyone, but for those of us who were honored to know him and were in School in the late 50s and early 60s, he was always known as “Coach”., This was true no matter which High School you attended. He has gone to be with his Sixth Grade Sweetheart, Billie Jean. Rest in Peace, Coach! How we did love you!