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Page: Gentry Years

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The Gentry Years

Robert R. “Bobby” Gentry was born in Carrollton, Georgia in 1924, the son of Oscar Lee and Euna Gentry.  The Gentry family 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 McCaskill’s departure.

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 the 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 was 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 state champions.

His overall career record was 203-97-10.  Additionally, he won three state football championships and seven 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, 2005.


Gentry Inducted Into GACA Hall of Fame

With an 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 Sharpe brothers.

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 Will.

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".



Coach Bobby Gentry, 81, of Hawkinsville, Georgia died Saturday, December 3rd, 2005, in Macon, Georgia.  Memorial services will be held at 2:00pm Saturday, December 10, 2005, at the Hawkinsville First United Methodist Church with Rev. Bill Jackson-Adams officiating.

Coach Gentry was a native of Carrollton, Georgia.  He was a member of the Hawkinsville First United Methodist Church and an Air Force veteran of World War II.  He was a graduate of the University of Georgia and Mercer University.  He was a teacher, coach, principal, headmaster, and superintendent in the Pulaski County School Systems.

Survivors include his wife, Maye M. Gentry of Hawkinsville, Georgia, daughters Vicky Gentry (Grady) Griffin of Hawkinsville, Georgia, and Robyn Gentry Griffith of Dublin, Georgia, grandchildren Robert and Fain Griffin and Ross and Will Griffith, great-grandchild Aiden Griffin, nieces and nephews.

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