Coach Sam Mason
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Coach Sam Mason 
He was more than a Coach and Teacher - He was our friend.

Coach Mason - 1908 - 1978

Sam Mason was born March 16, 1908 at Tallassee, Alabama.  He departed this life on February 19, 1978  at Lee County Hospital in Opelika at the age of sixty-nine years.  He was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church and resided at North 10th Street in Opelika.

Education and athletic accomplishments....

In 1929, Sam Mason graduated from Tallassee High School.  While in high school he played all sports and played on the 1927 team that was runner-up in the state basketball tournament to champion Woodlawn High School.  Mason was named second team all-tournament that year.  He moved up to first team in 1928 but Tallassee lost out in the semifinals to Sidney Lanier.  After graduating from high school he went on to attend Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University)  and graduated in May of 1934.  While attending API  he played both varsity football and basketball.  He was a four-letter athlete, and in his senior year he was named the outstanding athlete at Auburn.  He was particularly noted for his defensive play.  It was said that he had an uncanny ability to take the ball away from opponents.  Following his graduation from Auburn, Mason played baseball with the Montgomery Whittlers in the Dixie Amateur League in 1934 and 1935.

Coaching  career....

In 1936 he took his first coaching job at Fairfax High School in Chambers County and coached all sports.  He took the 1938 basketball squad to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.  While coaching at Fairfax he also was manager of the semi-pro baseball and basketball teams at West Point Manufacturing Company's Fairfax Mill.   The teams won local league championships and his baseball teams participated in the national semi-pro tournament in Wichita, Kansas.  One of his basketball teams was runner-up in the Southern Textile Tournament in Greenville, S.C.  In 1939 the Fairfax , Shawmut, Langdale and Riverview schools were consolidated to form the new Valley High School and Mason was named the first football coach and athletic director.  His first football team at the new school was 5-3-1.  The second team improved to 7-1-1, losing only to much larger Sidney Lanier. 

World War II interrupted his high school coaching career.  After the war, in the summer of 1945 he came to Opelika and assumed his duties as coach at Clift High School where he remained until 1959.  The first football game of the season was against the Alex City Wildcats at Moore Stadium in Opelika.   It was  the first game for both teams.  Opelika won the game 13 - 6  and went undefeated with a 9-0-0 record for the season.    The 1945 team was the only team under his leadership to go undefeated.   In 1952 the football team finished 5-2-2, earning an invitation to the Azalea Bowl in Mobile.  The Bulldogs played McGill  to a scoreless tie.  His final team in 1958 finished with an 8-2 record.  His overall record at Opelika was 71-56-6.  When Mason came to Opelika, it was with little fanfare.  He was a quiet individual who proved that action speaks louder than words.  It is said that he missed only one day of work during his entire coaching career. 

 He was an "all the way" coach too.  That means he did just about everything -  it was before the days of multiple assistants - and it wasn't unusual to find Coach Mason out in the dressing room with the washing machine going getting the athletic equipment in shape for use or to store until the next year.  It wasn't easy to get athletic dollars in those days and he had to be a good manager and stretcher of his dollars as well as a good coach in order to have the equipment and supplies needed for his sports programs. 

Mason also coached basketball at Opelika.  The 1954 basketball squad earned an appearance in the state tournament.  That team lost to runner-up Pisgah in the quarter-finals after upsetting Sidney Lanier in the first round. 

Honoring  the man...

Truly a remarkable man......during his long career many honors came his way, but the one he cherished the most was presented to him in 1933.  It was the Foreman Rogers Trophy, signifying the best all-around athlete at Auburn.  Mason served his community and school well from 1945 to 1959.  His coaching and teaching career spanned a total of 26 years.

Sam Mason started the OHS Track program.  Without  track facilities, he lined the field at Moore Stadium with a set of blocks and encouraged the young students to participate.  A new track and field facility was  constructed at the current Opelika High School  in 1973.  When the track was completed,  the citizens of Opelika honored him by naming  it the 'Coach Sam Mason Track'.   Winston Smith T was chairman of the Opelika School Board at the time and honored Coach Mason at pre-game ceremonies during a Friday night football game at Bulldog Stadium with the official announcement that the new track and field were to be named for him.  Smith T added "the citizens of Opelika owe Coach Mason a debt of gratitude  for his many years of dedicated service to the youth of Opelika".  During his speech that evening Mason reminded the fans at the game between Opelika High and Valley High that he had coached at both schools, but he was rooting for the Bulldogs.  Added to his enjoyment of the occasion was the 17-0 win over Valley High by the Bulldogs.

 Upon his retirement he was again honored many times. The city declared a Sam Mason Appreciation Day and he received the Jaycees' Distinguished Service Award.  On March 19, 2007 he was officially inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.  An award truly earned by his dedication to his school and the youngsters he served.  He touched the lives of so many young boys, and their lives were greatly influenced by his teaching skills. As told by a former student  he even helped the boys with homework and encouraged them to make better grades.

Sam Mason lives on in fond memories - -

He was a person of integrity.  He never berated a player and never used profanity or bad language.   He always kept a good sense of humor even when mistakes were made and games were not going well.  He exhibited much patience with his athletes who did not have much athletic  ability,  but wanted to play the game.   - Albert Killian

I knew Coach Mason both as a former player and later on as an assistant coach under his leadership.  He was a professional man who never used any profanity or abusive language.  He was a super, super, fine man, and a very good friend.   After retirement he assumed the duties in  the city Recreational Department. - Harold Turner 

A former student says one thing that stands out about Coach Mason was that he never used profanity in coaching the high school athletes entrusted to his care and training.  He could get good results without using the bad language.  Many days during lunch break you could walk down to the stadium and find Coach Mason washing the uniforms or doing other duties, but he was always willing to stop and play a game of 'washers', and he always won!  (Washers was a game much like horseshoes, except you used two holes in the ground and some washers- the one who threw the washers either close to the hole or in the hole would  win the game).

Information gathered from a booklet published by the Museum of East Alabama, former students,  old newspaper articles, Alabama High School Athletic Association, Albert Killian and Harold Turner.