Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 25, 2014

World War II veteran and longtime Virginia grid coach to be remembered

CLINTWOOD, Va. — A pilot with the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II Ralph Cummins was a member of what is widely regarded as "The Greatest Generation."

He was better known around Virginia, at least in southwest Virginia, as a member of the greatest generation of high school football coaches.

Cummins, who passed away Monday at the age of 88, coached Clintwood to three state championships and retired in 1987 with 261 wins, the most in state history.

He once served as president of the National Federation of High School Coaches, is a member of the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame and in 1990 he was inducted into the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame.

James Colley, who coaches at Clintwood's Dickenson County rival, Haysi, is currently known as the "dean" of area high school coaches after 32 years on the job.

His career began in an era when Cummins was part of a very impressive group of football coaches around the region, most of whom coached multiple state champions.

"When I first started coaching Clintwood was the team to beat for everybody and there were a lot of great coaches around then," Colley said. "That was about the time Phil Robbins took over at Powell Valley, you had Wayne Leftwich at Pound, Jim Riggs at Appalachia, Glynn Carlock at Graham, Harry Fry at Gate City, all those guys.”

"When I got started anytime I'd go to a coaching clinic I was thrilled to get to hear them speak, especially as a young coach. And they weren't just great football coaches, they were great leaders their community."

Cummins wrote the book, literally. His book, "Coaching, Football's Attack & Pursue 50 Defense" is still available on, among other places.

His brother, the late Brownie Cummins, also had a successful coaching career that included stints at Grundy, Gar-Field Woodbridge and Harrisonburg.

There will be a Celebration of Life service for coach Cummins today at 5:30 p.m. at the football field named for him, Ralph Cummins Stadium in Clintwood. Funeral services are Friday at 6:00 p.m. at Clintwood United Methodist Church.

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