George Doherty

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George Edward Doherty​

(Professional football player and coach at the high school and university levels)

George Doherty.jpg

Born September 5, 1920​
Canton, Madison County
Mississippi, USA
Died December 31, 1987 (aged 67)​
Natchitoches, Louisiana

Resting place:
Memory Lawn Cemetery in Natchitoches​

Spouse Mary Jeanne Mabry Doherty

One son: George Michael "Mike" Doherty
Alma mater:
Mississippi State University
Louisiana Tech University
​ George Peabody College​

George Edward Doherty (September 5, 1920 – December 31, 1987) was a National Football League player from 1944 to 1947, who thereafter was the defensive coach of the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs in Ruston and the head coach from 1972 to 1974 of the Northwestern State University Demons in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Background

Doherty was born in Canton in Madison County in central Mississippi, where he successfully played football in high school. He then attended Mississippi State University (then College) in Starkville for a year. He subsequently transferred to Louisiana Tech, where he played as a right tackle with the Bulldogs for three seasons in the Louisiana Intercollegiate Conference.

He served in the United States Army during World War II. In 1945, he procured his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tech. He also obtained a master's degree from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, which qualified him to teach mathematics at the secondary school level.​

The NFL years

Doherty played professionally, first, with the former Brooklyn Tigers in 1944, when he was declared "Rookie of the Year". He was twice named to the NFL "All Pro" team. He continued with the former Boston Yanks in 1945, and the former New York Yankees in 1946, and, finally in 1947 with the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, New York.​

While he was in California playing for the former Los Angeles Rams, Doherty claimed to have kissed the actress Carole Landis, sat beside Joan Caulfield on a bench, visited in the home of the crooner Bing Crosby, and been feted at the Brown Derby restaurant by Don Ameche.​

High school coaching

After he left professional football, Doherty began coaching in 1948 at Stamps High School in the town of Stamps in Lafayette County (pronounced Leh FAY ette) in southwestern Arkansas. There he turned around a winless year into two district championships and one second-place statewide.

In 1950, Doherty came to Minden (Louisiana) High School in Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, where he taught physical education and mathematics, including geometry, and coached the Crimson Tide through 1957, mostly during the principalship of his close friend W. W. Williams, Sr. When Doherty arrived, MHS had won only one football games in the past three seasons. Doherty turned things around to the extent that the Crimson Tide won the 1952 district championship with a 9-2 record. "We went from the bottom of the list to the top of the list in a short time," Williams, who served as the parish superintendent from 1973 to 1978, recalled.​

In 1953, the Crimson Tide again won the district championship with a 9-2 record. The final game, played on Thanksgiving afternoon against the in-parish rival, the Springhill Lumberjacks, was particularly gratifying to Doherty because the Springhill team then included future Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow.[1]

Minden under Doherty also defeated arch-rival Haynesville in northern Claiborne Parish] for the first time in a quarter century. In 1954, with a 13-1 record, the team won its first state championship. That was followed by another district championship in 1955 and a second state championship, again with a 13-1 record, in 1956. One of Doherty's players in 1956 was Billy Joe Booth, who later starred for Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and then played for nine years with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. Sports writers in Shreveport began to refer to Minden as the "Home of the Champions.

Billy Joe Booth was a nephew of Patrick Cary Nation (1918-2005), a United States Navy lieutenant and fighter pilot in the South Pacific Theater during World War II, who as the assistant coach at Minden High School handled defense for Doherty. Nation also served as head coach of the Crimson Tide baseball team, which under his supervision won 80 percent of its games, a record which stands. Minden also won 1950s state championships in track, basketball, and girl's swimming. Nation graduated from MHS in 1937 and was a football coach there from 1946 to 1961, when he became the second principal of the former Theresa McConnell Lowe Junior High School in Minden, a post he filled for sixteen years.[2]

After the first state championship in 1954, Doherty accepted the head coach position at 3-A Bolton High School in Alexandria in Rapides Parish, but he stayed just one day and promptly returned to the 2-A Minden High School.[3] Williams, Sr., said that Doherty had the penchant for making an average player into a great player: "It seemed every year, he was getting five to nine players a scholarship to Louisiana Tech. Sometimes they even referred to Louisiana Tech as 'Minden Tech.'​ ​

Louisiana Tech coach

Doherty left MHS in 1957 to become the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, a position that he held until 1966. While at Tech, his teams set six school records and won or held five Gulf States Conference championships. Williams' son, Butch Williams, like his father a Webster Parish school superintendent, played under Doherty for two years at Tech. So did Ronnie Brown, of Minden and later Bossier City, who was the principal at Sarepta High School. Williams, Jr., described his former coach as "a very intense man on the football field and off the field one of the nicest and calmest persons you could meet."[4]

While the defensive coach at Tech under Joe Aillet (1904-1971), Doherty had a heart attack, was sidelined, and temporarily replaced by Jimmy Johnson, later the coach of the Miami Hurricanes and the Miami Dolphins.

Later years in Natchitoches

​ In 1967, Doherty accepted the same defensive coordinator position at Tech's football rival, Northwestern State. In 1972,he was promoted to head coach and led the NSU to an 8-2 record and the Gulf South Conference championship. He retired in 1974, with a 15-17 record at Northwestern.

Doherty was also a fisherman, who spent hours on Black Lake in Natchitoches Parish. Williams, Sr., recalled that the two often fished but never on Sunday.[4]

Doherty's wife, the former Mary Jeanne Mabry (1923-2013), was a native of Choudrant east of Ruston in Lincoln Parish. For a total of thirty-six years, she taught English and speech in various location where her family lived.. The couple had a son, George Michael "Mike" Doherty (born March 22, 1952), and his wife, Mary, of Lafayette. The Dohertys are interred at Memory Lawn Cemetery in Natchitoches.[5]

Doherty and his wife lived in Natchitoches during their retirement years. He died of a heart attack on New Year's Eve 1987. He is honored through the naming of the George Doherty Wing, which houses the NSU football offices in Natchitoches, as well as the George Doherty Football Scholarship.[6]

Some two hundred persons, including former and current coaches and former players under Doherty, attended services at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in downtown Natchitoches.[6]

References

  1. Minden Press, November 1953.
  2. Patrick Cary Nation. findagrave.com. Retrieved on October 28, 2019.
  3. "Coach Doherty Welcomed Back at Minden High," Minden Herald, January 19, 1956, p. 1.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jeff Clemons, "Doherty More Than a Coach," Minden Press-Herald, January 3, 1988, p. 9.
  5. Mary Doherty obituary. Alexandria Town Talk (September 27, 2013). Retrieved on October 28, 2019.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Doherty was revered as a 'gentleman,' The Shreveport Times, January 3, 1988, p. 7C.

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