3rd in a 13 part series introducing the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023
By Bill Plott
Montgomery, AL – Coach William Earl Griffin is known to all around Plantersville as “Mr. Dallas County High School.”
And for good reason. Griffin has served the school and community in every way imaginable through his love for education and sports over the last 50-plus years. And in his retirement, he is still
going strong for the children and teachers who have grown to love him just like the mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.
Griffin is one of 13 individuals who are being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame next Monday, March 13, at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The banquet will begin at 6 p.m. At 1:15 p.m., a press conference will be held at the Renaissance introducing the Class of 2023 to the media. The Hall of Fame is a program developed and managed by the AHSAA’s Alabama High School High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA). This year’s class will be the 23rd class inducted since the HOF inception in 1991.
Raised in nearby Chilton County near Clanton, Griffin graduated from Verbena High School in 1960. Although his strong suit was baseball, he excelled in all sports earning All County honors in baseball, football, and basketball. He also excelled in Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball. Upon graduation, major league baseball scout Dixie Walker offered him a $1,000 signing bonus to sign with the Milwaukee Braves. He decided on college instead, enrolling at Auburn University where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1964. He later earned a master’s degree in administration from the University of Montevallo. That decision changed the lives of hundreds of students over the next six decades.
From 1964 until his ‘official’ retirement in 2000, Coach Griffin was labeled by many as “Mr. Dallas County High School.” He coached football, baseball, basketball, and track, never having a losing record. He received numerous Coach of the Year honors. When that part of his career was over, he continued to serve the school, first as assistant principal, and then twice as principal. Even in his retirement he has served as s substitute teacher, umpire, and mentor to students, teachers, coaches and administrators in Dallas, Chilton and Autauga County.
He began his career Dallas County High School, located in the small community of Plantersville in eastern Dallas County, in 1964 as a math and physical education teacher while also coaching football. Prior to his arrival, the football team had not had a winning season in seven years. The 1964 team was 0-10. His first team in 1965 went 4-4-2, and in 14 years he never had a losing season. His overall record was 91-39-6 with a Region record of 16-5. He had nine All-State players. His first head-coaching opportunity at Dallas County was in basketball when the coach at the time resigned during mid-season. Griffin coached basketball for three years and led the 1967-68 team to a 19-8 record and a semifinals’ appearance in the state tournament. Although Dallas County finished fourth, Donald Jones was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Coach Griffin’s basketball record was 54-27.
He coached baseball from 1970-78, winning the Class 1A/2A state championship in 1970 and making the Class 3A semifinals in 1975 and 1976. From 1968-1971, his baseball teams compiled a 48-game winning streak that included undefeated seasons in 1969 and 1970. His career record was 219-59. The baseball field and field house are named in his honor.
Griffin also had a long career as an official with the Central Alabama Football Officials Association, the Dallas County Umpires Association, Selma Football and Basketball Officials Association, Chilton Baseball Umpires Association, and Chilton County Softball Umpires Association.
He retired as principal in 2000 but continues to teach, coach and mentor young people after accepting a position as substitute teacher, bus driver, and coaching assistant with Autauga County Schools. That connection gives him more than six decades of affiliation with the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Circuit Judge Collins Pettway Jr. recalled his playing days under Coach Griffin. “My fondest memories of Coach Griffin occurred on the football field and baseball diamond,”he said. “It was Coach Griffin who molded me into the athlete I needed to be, which earned me a full scholarship in football to Alabama A&M University. I played football for four years and baseball one year. The lessons I learned under Coach Griffin have transcended the field and helped me in my service to the public. Hard work, punctuality, commitment to detail, dedication, and tenacity have followed me each day. These were lessons in life learned under Coach Griffin.”
He added, “Coaching young men in high school is an awesome task, and it always takes a person who could take it as a labor of love to succeed. Our 1976 football season was great, and we should have finished the regular season undefeated. However, as players, we turned off the ‘gas’ in spite of encouragement and warnings from Coach Griffin and lost the last game. Coach Griffin immediately took that as a teaching tool and those lessons have stuck with me and helped me through college and with my legal career.”
Retired coach James Carter said, “I have known Coach Griffin for over fifty years. In 1969, he helped get me hired as his assistant football and baseball coach, as well as head basketball coach. He was a great mentor, teaching me most of what I know about coaching football and baseball. Although winning is important, he (Coach Griffin) did more with his players than just win. He made men out of boys.
“He taught respect and demanded respect. He taught his players discipline, cooperation, teamwork, leadership, and many other qualities that help guide a person long after he graduates from high school. This is what so many of his players remember and thank him for today.”