The Gentry Years
Robert R. “Bobby” Gentry was born in Carrollton,
Georgia in 1924, the son of Oscar Lee and Euna Gentry. The Gentry
eventually moved to Athens, Georgia, where Coach Gentry got his first
experience with football as a manager for Coach Red Maddox of Athens High
School. Later, under Coach Alex McCaskill, he became the ball handler in the
single wing offense of the 1940s. During the week following Pearl Harbor in
1941, his Athens High team won the state championship in a game against Thomasville.
He also played basketball and was a member of the state championship Athens
team later that same school year.
Coach Gentry served in the Army Air Corp beginning in
March, 1943, at the height of World War II. He made stops in Burma,
Australia, India, and China. It was during those lonely times that he made
his decision to enter the coaching profession. He penned a letter to Coach
McCaskill asking to become a student assistant once he left the military.
He later spent two years as an assistant under Beefy Eaves after Coach
One of his former coaches, Eddie Harrell, became
superintendent of schools in Hawkinsville in 1947. Hawkinsville had just
restarted its football program and the coach at that time decided to try and
make a career as a professional baseball umpire. Mr. Harrell contacted
Coach Gentry and after much thought he decided to give Hawkinsville a try.
Starting in 1948, Coach Gentry started to mold the
Hawkinsville team into a powerhouse. After a few years of building the
program, Hawkinsville experienced its first unbeaten season in 1952 only to
lose in the playoffs. In 1953 he led Hawkinsville to its first ever state
championship with an unbeaten and untied record. In 1954 the Devils once
again repeated the feat with another perfect record. Later Coach Gentry
would lead Hawkinsville to three additional state championship games and his
last crown came in 1959.
Coach Gentry also coached basketball, track, and golf
while at Hawkinsville High School. His golf teams won two state crowns, in
1964 and 1967. He was also the main driving force behind a prep
invitational golf tournament held in Hawkinsville each year during the 1960s
that attracted some of the states top prep golfers including Bunky Henry,
Lynn Lott, and
Bruce Fleisher, all of whom went on to win on the PGA tour.
Perhaps his greatest victory was his leadership in
ushering in integration in the public school system. His guidance led
Hawkinsville athletic teams through this change without incident. He
retired from coaching in 1976 and later returned to the education profession
and became the county school superintendent.
Bobby is married to the former Maye Mitchell of Forsyth
and they have two children, Vicky and Robyn. He had the great pleasure of
coaching both his children during their high school careers in girl’s
basketball and led them to the state tournament only to fall to the eventual
His overall career record was 203-97-10.
Additionally, he won three state football championships and six region
titles. He was named Coach of the Year in 1959 and served as the head
coach of the south team in the 1977 North-South All Star team. He was
also honored by the Atlanta Touchdown Club as a member of the Club of
Coaches Winning Over 200 Games. In 1995 the high school stadium was
renamed Bobby Gentry Stadium in his honor. Coach Gentry was elected to
the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame and was officially
presented by former Americus coach Jimmy Hightower and inducted on June 4,
|Gentry Inducted Into GACA Hall of
HERE to see additional pictures from the induction.
all star guest list that included former NFL greats and current ESPN analysts
Sterling and Shannon Sharpe, Coach Dan Pitts, Coach Bill Chappell and many, many
more, our own Coach Bobby Gentry was officially inducted into the Georgia
Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday in Dalton at the
association's 67th Annual Awards Luncheon. Coach Gentry was one of six
inductees that included former Washington-Wilkes and Darlington School coach
Charlie Davidson and William "Billy" Hall, the high school track coach of the
Coach Gentry was presented to the Hall of Fame by former
Americus coach Jimmy Hightower, himself a 2004 inductee. Hightower won
state crowns at Americus in the 1960s and coached greats like Dan Reeves and
Calvin Prince during the high school days. The dignified ceremony was
indeed a reflection of the class and character of our great coach.
Coach Hightower commented that is was Gentry who in 1948 came to
Hawkinsville to establish a winning football program and his foundation carries
on today as we are the two time defending Class A state champion. He also
commented that Coach Gentry had made better citizens out of players who came
through his program.
While seated with and around many former Red Devil greats I
could not help but allow my mind to drift back in time. I could almost see
Melvin Borum breaking two 80+ yard runs against Waynesboro in a playoff game in
1953. I was in the huddle with Harlow Coody as he called plays during his great
career. I could see Royce Conner catching two passes against Perry to
spearhead a big win over the Panthers. I could see Johnny Gatlin guiding
the Devils through the 1959 state championship game before giving way to Billy
Grinstead after breaking his collarbone. I could see the "leaping"
Jennings brothers catching passes. I experienced once again the hot and
tiring practices that we went through. I could hear the roar of the crowd
as the Devils upset #1 Northside-Warner Robins in 1967, perhaps Coach Gentry's
greatest non-playoff win. I could literally hear Coach Gentry as he called
an out of character long pass on the first play of a 1969 playoff game to this very
nervous quarterback and writer. I once again felt the joy of beating Perry and Dublin
in back-to-back weeks in 1971 by identical razor thin 7-6 scores. I could
hear Coach at the roof raising pep rallies and his famous "Gentryisms" like "be
that as it may" and "irregardless". The excitement was there with the same
intensity that it was during my school days. As I looked around at the
likes of the Sonny and Dale Evans, Loy Hutcheson, Earl Ray Tripp, John Goode and
many other greats I thought Coach might just get us together and call a
practice! I can only imagine the great pride that Mrs. Gentry along with
daughters Vicky and Robyn had as they watched Coach stride to the podium to
receive his award. Watching very intently were four very proud
grandchildren--Vicky's own Fain and Robert along with Robyn's children Ross and
The plaque now enshrined in the Hall of Fame at the Northwest Georgia Trade
Center in Dalton, Georgia reads:
Robert Richard Gentry was
inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame on June 4,
2005. All of his 29 years as head coach were spent at Hawkinsville High
School. Under his leadership, his football teams won 3 state
championships, 7 regions titles, and 2 state runner-up titles. His
impressive overall coach record was 204 wins. In addition to his football
accomplishments, two of his golf teams at Hawkinsville won state championships.
His love for sports, and more importantly for the people that played it,
inspired him through out his years in coaching. As a result of his
dedication and commitment, Coach Gentry helped establish one of the most
successful football programs in our state. He is recognized as a true
coaching legend and a credit to the coaching profession.
Everyone who participated under Coach Gentry was a part of the
ceremony and should feel a sense of pride as to this great accomplishment.
There is no greater honor that to be selected by your peers as one of the best.
Congratulations Coach and thanks for making Saturday a "Devil of an afternoon".
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