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William B. “Bill” Ward photo
William B. “Bill” Ward photo
William B. “Bill” Ward
Hometown: Booneville, MS
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Coach William Burton “Coach Billy” Ward was a legendary football coach at Booneville, New Albany, Houston, and Northeast Mississippi Community College. A native of Booneville, Bill played football, baseball, and basketball at Booneville High and served as captain of the 1949 undefeated football team. He attended Northeast Mississippi Junior College and was a member of the school’s first football team from 1950 to 1951. He served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War and returned to play football at Southern Miss from 1952 to 1953. He would later earn his master’s degree from Ole Miss. Coach Ward started his 28-year coaching career in 1954 and guided the Blue Devils football program to 7 winning seasons and a mark of 35-23-2. He was hired as head football coach at W. P. Daniel High in New Albany in 1961 and paced the Bulldogs to two undefeated seasons in 1962 and 1963 with a 23-game winning streak. He was named Little Ten Conference Coach of the Year for both the 1962 and 1963 seasons. He would lead his teams at New Albany to a record of 34-12-2. He was then head coach at Houston High for the 1967 season leading his team to record of 7-2-2. In 1968, he was charged with reinstating the football program at Northeast Junior High. He assumed duties as athletic director of the school in 1973 and would coach there until 1982. Coach Ward led the Tigers to North Divisions titles and a state runner-up finish in 1979 and 1980. He was named the North Mississippi Junior College Coach of the Year in 1980 when he guided the Tigers to a 9-0 start and a ranking of no. 2 in the nation. Coach Ward retired from coaching in 1982, but continued in athletics as NJCAA Region 23 Director for 13 years. He served two terms on the NJCAA Executive Committee and in 1987, he was elected president of the Mississippi Community College Athletic Directors Association in which he served for 10 years. Coach Ward’s overall high school coaching record was 76 wins, 37 losses, and 6 ties, and his Northeast CC teams compiled a mark of 152 wins, 123 losses, and 9 ties. Coach Ward was responsible for bringing the Mississippi Community/Junior College All-Star Classic to Northeast CC in 1987. Besides numerous other coaching honors, Coach Ward received the NJCAA Men’s Outstanding Leadership Award in 1994, the NJCAA Loyalty Award in 1995, and the All-American Football Foundation award for Outstanding Community College Coach in 2004. He served as an assistant coach in the 1964 Bernard Blackwell All-Star classic. In addition to MAC Coaches Hall of Fame membership, Coach Ward was inducted into the Mississippi Community College Sports Hall of Fame as a charter member in 2007 and the Northeast Mississippi Community College Athletic Hall of Fame as a charter member in 2008. He was also inducted into the National Coaches Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Northeast Mississippi Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2018. Coach Ward as a community leader who was a member of the First United Methodist Church, the Upper Room Sunday School Class, and served on the Pastor-Parrish Relations Committee. He organized the Upper Basketball Program in Booneville, served on the board of directors for the Booneville Golf and Country Club and the Booneville Boys and Girls Club. He was selected as the Outstanding Citizen of the city in 2007 by the Booneville Junior Auxiliary. Coach Ward was a 32nd degree Mason, a Shriner, and chairman of the committee that helped erect a monument to honor the soldiers of Booneville’s Dixie Division of the National Guard. In 2004, a street in Booneville was named “Coach Billy Ward Drive” in his honor. Coach Ward passed away on July 25, 2018.