Winningest coach in KC history dies at 81

SHENIECE CHAPPELL
Sports Editor

Saturday morning KC lost a legacy  Saturday morning when former head football coach Jim Miller died in his sleep at the age of 81.

“Kilgore College is the winningest college when it comes to football in Texas, and it’s mostly because of Coach Miller,” said Jimmy Rieves, athletic director. “He’s an icon.”

Miller  JimRieves established a close friendship with Miller over the years and occasionally had him come speak to his players and step in at practices when he coached from 2000 to 2006.

“I tried to keep him involved and apart of this program as much as possible when I became head coach in 2000,” Rieves said. “He had a great influence on me as well as the players he and I coached.”

Miller made his mark at KC in 1967 as an assistant coach. He eventually, became head coach in 1976 and that is when it all began. Miller amassed a record of 97 wins, 66 losses and two ties. He won a national championship, seven conference titles and appeared in five bowl games during his time at KC. Miller has gone down in the books as the winningest coach in KC history.

“He was a very hard-nose disciplined coach,” Rieves said. “Every young man who played for him has become a better man.”

After retiring at the end of the 1991 season, Miller set a standard of excellence that everyone tries to live up to.

Some of his players went pro, some chose the business road and others became coaches themselves.

“He’s had several players to play in the NFL,” Rieves said. “I would name them, but I might miss someone.”

In 1991 Miller was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce) and later inducted into the first KC Ranger Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.

When it came to KC football – even in retirement – Miller tried his best to attend every game.

His 25-plus years as a coach and loyal honoree of KC will not go unknown for he will live on in the hearts of many.

“Miller was caring, honest, sincere and just an overall good Christian man. He was a man who genuinely loved to be around young people,” Rieves said. “He coached hard and cared about everyone.”

 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  •  Inducted into Athletic Hall of Fame at Texas A&M Commerce.
  •  Inducted into first KC Ranger Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.
  •  Coached several future NFL players.

 

Student remembers tragic day in church

BRITTANI PFAU
Co-Executive Editor

They didn’t know to duck. They didn’t know they would be dodging bullets that day. Leslie Lee, Lone Star sophomore, was 8 years old when Alvin Lee King III burst into Daingerfield First Baptist Church on June 22, 1980, taking the lives of five people and injuring 10 more.

Lee and her sisters were seated in the far right pews when King opened fire in the church.

 

Marci Wells / THE FLARE || Leslie Lee, Lone Star sophomore, holds the June 21, 1981, special section of The Steel Country Bee. The special section was released to commemorate  of the one-year anniversary of the Daingerfied First Baptist Church shooting.
Marci Wells / THE FLARE || Leslie Lee, Lone Star sophomore, holds the June 21, 1981, special section of The Steel Country Bee. The special section was released to commemorate of the one-year anniversary of the Daingerfied First Baptist Church shooting.

“Everyone was screaming. My sisters and I moved into the regular pew just a few feet away with my mom and brother,” Lee said. “My mom said, ‘Get down! Get down!’ so we hid under the pew on the floor until the preacher said for everyone to exit the back door. People were bleeding and crying.”

Lee followed the preacher’s instructions and, along with her mother, sister and brothers, made her way through the back door of the church, outside and into a crowd of injured and shocked worshipers.

“I remember seeing a man with his hands and arms covered in blood,” Lee said. “I’m not sure if he was helping someone who was hurt or if he had been hurt himself. My dad, who did not go to church with us, was at home and heard it on the police scanner and was there when we came out of the church.”

Lee grew up attending First Baptist Church with her family. The Sunday following the shooting, the Lees were in attendance with many other congregation members who refused to be deterred from coming back to their house of worship.

Lee’s mother, Barbara Lee, clearly remembers that day.

“We were a little apprehensive to go back. They had taken out some of the bloody furniture and removed the carpet. But when he [King] came in that day, we thought it was a skit. Two weeks before, the church had held a skit with men coming in the back door in military get up,” Barbara said. “They were trying to show us how fortunate we were that we could worship freely without a gun to our head like it is in some countries. That’s why no one got down right away. We thought it was a skit.”

Today, Lee says the events of that day don’t have much of an effect on how she lives her life.

“I don’t really remember it affecting me to the point that I was scared to do things,” Lee said. “I’m sure it affected my life somehow because it was a traumatic event but sometimes it even seems like it was a dream and not real.”

Courage under fire

Ashton Johnson
Co-Executive Editor

Registrar Staci Pollan Martin was so busy with her graduation duties last December that she did not hear about that morning’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., until it was mentioned in the prayer at the ceremony. Then the memories flooded back.

“I know I must have gone pale because I remember just feeling sick and I wanted to cry thinking of those children who were younger than I was,” Martin said.

Martin was just 10 years old when a gunman burst into her church and opened fire.

“It’s just heartbreaking and makes you relive the whole thing. I just want to reach out to those kids who survived and say ‘I was around your age when something like this happened to me and you can go on with your life,’” Martin said.

Jonathen Ruesch / THE FLARE || Registrar Staci Martin stands in front of the monument at Daingerfield First Baptist Church. Martin was just 10 years old when a gunman burst through the doors of the church and opened fire.
Jonathen Ruesch / THE FLARE || Registrar Staci Martin stands in front of the monument at Daingerfield First Baptist Church. Martin was just 10 years old when a gunman burst through the doors of the church and opened fire.

Thirty-two years, nine months and 30 days after the Daingerfield shooting, Martin feels compelled to share her story that changed her life forever.

The date was Sunday, June 22, 1980.

Daingerfield–population 2,500–was a quiet, small town with a pretty church downtown. First Baptist was a safe, peaceful place, but on that day one man’s hatred changed everything.

“My family was always in church, so it wasn’t unusual for us to be there that day. My mother and I were sitting about half way down on the left hand side of the church as you face toward the front. My brother was sitting with a friend closer to the front and my dad was a deacon so he was waiting on the front row to take the offering, “ Martin said. “It is important to me to know that we weren’t all sitting together when something unexpected happened.”

The services had just begun that sunny Sunday morning when Alvin Lee King III, brandishing an AR-15 rifle with an attached bayonet, burst through the doors of Daingerfield First Baptist Church and shouted “This is war,” before firing randomly into the right side of the sanctuary.

“We were singing the hymn ‘More about Jesus.’ It wasn’t one I knew very well, but I will always remember that now,” Martin said.

The puzzled congregation turned to look at the back of the church.

“I heard a noise that sounded like firecrackers. My first thought was that something had gone wrong with the soundboard system because I knew it was coming from behind me,” Martin said. “Before I could turn around, my mother pushed me down into the floor and up under the pew in front of me. I didn’t really know what was going on, but she actually got on top of me.”

After only 10 seconds and a hail of gunfire, five people were dead and 10 others were wounded.

“I heard people just screaming and then somebody who was in the row ahead of me and was also down on the floor was just saying ‘We need to pray, We need to pray’ and then all of a sudden it stopped,” Martin said.

Usher Gene Gandy had stood to greet the latecomer when the church doors burst open and was immediately shot several times in the chest. As King continued to spread gunfire across the right side of the sanctuary, soundboard operator Chris Hall jumped at him, pushing him back into the foyer.

The gunman’s rifle, glasses and combat helmet went clattering to the floor. King then pulled the .22-caliber pistol out of his vest and began firing at Hall, who managed to crawl down a nearby stairwell.

Red McDaniel and Kenneth Truitt bear-hugged and pushed King out the front doors of the church, down the three steps and out onto the lawn, all while King was shooting both men in their chests. There on the grass,  McDaniel and Truitt died.

“They sacrificed their lives. They’re [McDaniel and Truitt] heroes. They did not hesitate. Mr. McDaniel’s wife had been shot and he tended to her for a minute and said he would be back, for her to stay there, something like that and he went after him [King]. That’s incredible,” Martin said. “There’s a monument in front of the church that memorializes the heroism of Red McDaniel and Kenneth Truitt. It’s amazing to think about the sacrifice that someone else made so that you can live. It makes you eternally grateful that there are people in the world who are like that.”

King escaped from the front of the church, walked around the side of the building and crossed the street. He stood in the parking lot of the fire station and shot himself in the temple.

Meanwhile, inside the sanctuary, frantic people began to try to make sense of what had just happened.

“Our pastor was sick, and the pastor that day was actually filling in,” Martin said. “I remember when he got on the microphone and began telling people to calm down and that we needed to pray. At some point he said ‘We all need to get out of here. Walk to the front of the church and out a side door.’ They didn’t want us to see what had happened.”

Attempting to block the children’s view of those injured, congregation members helped to rush them out the back doors.

“I remember them routing us through the hallways of our Sunday school building to keep us from seeing the things going on outside,” Martin said. “Curious, I looked and could see bodies on the concrete in front of the church.”

As the congregation made its way outside, the chaos continued.

“In a small town like Daingerfield you don’t have a big hospital to take people to, but there was a small hospital in the nearby city of Lone Star. It was about seven miles away, so they started taking people there,” Martin said. “My mother’s good friend and her pregnant daughter had been shot so before I knew it we were at the hospital.”

Hospital in the Pines (now closed) was overwhelmed by the number of people in the small emergency room.

“My mother was taking her friend’s rings off and putting pressure on her arm to try to stop the bleeding, and while all of this was going on my brother and I watched an ambulance pull up,” Martin said. “It was the gunman. I remember standing outside with a crowd of people when they pulled the gurney out of the ambulance. They didn’t bring him inside, but just started treating him in the parking lot.”

King was still alive and had suffered only a minor injury to the head.

“We were just standing there, watching him,” Martin said. “I had no idea who it was at the time because I had never looked around when it [the shooting] happened, but my mother and many others immediately recognized him.”

King had previously been a math teacher at Daingerfield High School and was well-known around town, especially in recent events.

“My mother had previously taught with him and had served on the grand jury who had recently indicted him for incest with his daughter,” Martin said.

King was scheduled to begin trial Monday, June 23, 1980. He had asked many congregation members to be character witnesses in his trial. All refused.

“I remember listening to the crowd whisper and mumble among themselves about King’s possible motive [while at the hospital], and I remember mentioning to a woman that mother had been on the grand jury,” Martin said. “I will never forget her saying, ‘Well maybe that’s why he did it.’”

After he was treated in Lone Star, King was transported to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston.

“That afternoon we went back to the church to meet family members, and I remember seeing the pews and carpet on the grass in front of the church,” Martin said. “They immediately started ripping out those pews that had bullet holes in them. They even ripped out the carpet that had blood on it.”

Martin and her family gathered at her grandparents’ house for the rest of the afternoon.

“I remember sitting around the kitchen table just feeling really numb,” Martin said. “We could not believe that something like that could happen. Now we are used to hearing about this stuff, unfortunately, but back then that did not happen.”

The summer of 1980 has been recorded as one of the hottest summers in East Texas.

“It rained that day and it had hardly rained that summer. That afternoon a dark cloud came and it rained for a while and then it quit. It was just strange,” Martin said. “Many people call it ‘the day the angels cried.’”

Phone lines were busy and all media outlets were transfixed on the city of Daingerfield.

“Of course back then we didn’t have the Internet, we didn’t have 24-hour television news and you certainly didn’t have cell phones. There was a lot of uncertainty once it started getting out later that afternoon,” Martin said. “We had an influx of media come in–news helicopters from Dallas. We didn’t have counselors to help people or any of that. We just coped on our own.”

Daingerfield buzzed with talk of the shooting and members of the town were forced to face the tragedy.

“It was dealing with something unheard of first of all and in a small town where you think you’re safe. We didn’t lock our doors and my parents left their keys in their cars most of the time,” Martin said. “We lived out in the country and my brother and I slept in my parents’ room because we were afraid to be by ourselves and afraid that that man would come back.”

Martin’s parents placed a mattress at the end of their bed, and Martin and her brother slept there for a month.

“When you’re a kid and you hear ‘he’s going to plea insanity and get out’ that’s all you think about. You think he’s going to get out of jail and come back,” Martin said.

Martin and the residents of Daingerfield were confronted with the event everywhere they went.

“I remember going to the lake that summer in Daingerfield and seeing a news helicopter fly overhead, so you couldn’t forget about it,” Martin said. “We just tried to get over it on our own, and only the people who were actually there could understand and help you cope with it.”

Martin and her family were in church the next Sunday along with their congregation and many more.

“My parents were bound and determined that we were going to go back to church that next Sunday. Nothing was going to keep us from going back to our church home, we had to be strong and show that some evil person could not overcome something that was good,” Martin said. “It was a packed service, and in fact the attendance went up tremendously after that.”

The sanctuary revealed bullet holes in the walls, hardwood floors that were once covered by blood-stained carpet and a room full of horrific memories.

“That Sunday I wore these little flip flop shoes that had a wooden heel. I had wanted them so much and I can distinctly remember how loud they were on the wooden floor,” Martin said. “I didn’t want to hear loud; I wanted to be quiet.”

King remained in Rusk State Hospital for 18 months before being relocated to Morris County Jail. Just hours before he was scheduled to return to a courtroom where a district judge was considering whether to relocate a court hearing to determine if he was competent to aid in his defense at his murder trial, King hanged himself with strips of a towel in his Morris County Jail cell.

“I remember very distinctly the day he killed himself. I was in the sixth grade and the phone rang, and when the phone rings early in the morning, it’s usually not good news,” Martin said. “I just had the biggest sense of relief. It was like a weight had been lifted off all of us.”

Even today Martin is still affected by shooting-related incidents.

“As I got older, maybe college age and older, and could really look back on what an unusual experience it was and how tragic it was. When you are sort of removed from the situation it makes you really think ‘I can’t believe I went through something like that,’” Martin said. “It becomes more unbelievable as time goes by and it’s not as fresh.”

Martin says it makes her more aware of her surroundings.

“There is a side of me that says ‘I’ve already been through this awful experience. What are the odds of this happening to me again?’ and that’s the logic that you tell yourself to try to cope,” Martin said.

Though Martin has experienced an unusual and tragic event, the happenings of that day haven’t held her back.

“I take the positive aspects out of it; like the heroes, the outpouring of support we got and the fact that we could go on with our lives,” Martin said. “Not many people have been in an experience like ours. God pulled us through it and let us prosper beyond that.”

Home Run

JEREMY GARZA
Staff Writer

Last May when KC officials decided to add softball to the athletic department, they did not have to look terribly far for a head coach.

Leslie Messina was head coach at Texarkana College for eight years, making quite a resumé for herself, that is until the athletic department was terminated to help budget school funding.

“It was sad to see Texarkana having to cut its athletic department,” Messina said. “But it was perfect timing for myself coming to Kilgore.”

Elizabeth Martinez  / THE FLARE || Head Rangers softball coach Leslie Messina,  coached at Texarkana for eight years and is now with KC in its inaugural season. She has led teams to five conference championships, two regional championships and has had two National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament appearances.
Elizabeth Martinez / THE FLARE ||
Head Rangers softball coach Leslie Messina, coached at Texarkana for eight years and is now with KC in its inaugural season. She has led teams to five conference championships, two regional championships and has had two National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament appearances.

During Messina’s tenure at Texarkana College, she was a part of five conference championships, two regional championships and two National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament appearances.

Messina’s coaching type is not one of too many emotions. In last week’s game against Northeast Texas Community College, the Rangers rallied to score four runs to take an early 4-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning. While this was happening Messina was relaxed, coaching from third base, giving the generic hand clap. When sitting down with sophomores Molly Mackey, team captain, (transfer from Angelina College) and Tricia Hock (who came with Messina from Texarkana) both described their coach as gentle.

“She can be quiet sometimes,” Hock said. “But she gets the point across when she comes up and talks to us one-on-one during a game or practice.”

Messina even described herself as not being a loud person by nature.

“By the time you’re here you know what’s expected of you and you’ll know the consequences,” Messina said. “I save the yelling and screaming for when I see a lack of effort. It’s not my first reaction and I try to stay level-headed.”

“You can tell coach has a true love for the sport,” Hock said.

This love for the game blossomed in Springfield, Ill., where Messina was born.

“I started with tee ball, then baseball until I was 12 years old and then started playing softball,” Messina said.

Eventually, she earned her way to playing catcher, first base and designated hitter at the University of Evansville in Indiana.  Messina is a St. Louis Cardinals fan and  tributes her love of the Cards to growing up in Springfield, Ill.

“I even named a fish of mine Ozzie Smith,” Messina said.

Ozzie Smith is member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves as shortstop for the San Diego Padres and the Cardinals. He is known for his infamous flips when running out to shortstop.

Even though Messina had most of her athletic experience in softball, she also played tennis and basketball.

“My father was a Junior Davis Cup tennis player,” she said.”My brother actually played basketball and tennis as well.”

Junior Davis Cup is an international tennis team competition for players 16 and under.

“I stuck with softball because it was the sport I was best at,” Messina said.

She no longer plays softball but enjoys coaching America’s past time.

“I enjoy coaching because it keeps me competitive,” Messina said.

KC’s inaugural softball season has not been ideal, but Messina is keeping optimistic about the legacy she wants to establish at KC.

“We have to have good players, good coaching and great support from our administration,” Messina said. “We have all those things and if we stick at it, it’ll be a matter of time until we have that reputation built at KC.”

Plaque stirs deep-set feelings of love, pride toward father

Losing someone you love alters your life forever.

Most soon learn the pain never truly goes away, but does ease with time.

Many times, people never quite know what to say or do.

They watch you fall into a whirlwind of emotions.

Your lungs start to constrict only fueling the undying determination of your tears to fall. Possibly, the most overwhelming feeling you could ever have.

Maegan Mitchell, Staff Writer
Maegan Mitchell, Staff Writer

Earlier this semester, I relived these feelings that have consumed me for most of my life.

In 2001, at just 9 years old, my father was killed in an explosion on a Halliburton wellsite near Buffalo.

After almost 30 years accident free, his good safety record was gone.

After the accident, Halliburton displayed a plaque in the Kilgore safety classroom with bronze faces of those who died: my father (Jimmy Miley) and Patric Pritchard.

At such a young age, I didn’t quite understand its meaning. I soon learned the magnitude of this gesture and was determined to see the plaque no matter what it took.

Several years passed before I was able to see the plaque.

Finally, this past January, I was allowed in.  My prayers had been answered.

As I pulled into the parking lot, turning off my ignition, I took a deep breath to calm my nerves.

Plaque_MaeganMitchellI walked to the front door, I welcomed the cold breeze as it was, in a way, a wake-up call that this was finally happening.

The secretary had been expecting me. I obediently signed the guestbook and took a visitor’s pass on the way to my seat in the empty waiting room.

My nervous feelings subdued to excitement. Imagine a 20-year-old sitting in a chair dangling her feet like a small child would in an oversized chair.

Suddenly, the glass door leading to the offices opened and a man with an outstretched hand stepped through the threshold.

After a brief introduction, he guided me through the winding halls and began up a flight of stairs as I followed a few steps behind his broad strides.

He held open a large door and I entered what appeared to be a classroom.

I watched as the man made his way across the room filled with neatly lined chairs and an empty chalkboard.

I slowly walked where he stopped to gaze at the plaque. Again, my heart began to pound in my chest, but this time it was different. It was no longer a suffocating pain, but instead a sense of pride. My dad’s accident would help educate Halliburton employees on how to prevent senseless deaths from happening again.

As I began to read the golden letters perfectly placed on the black metal, tears began to stream down my cheeks as they marked their descent with glistening lines.

My father’s face was crafted in the exact way I remembered every detail.

Many feelings resurfaced that day standing in front of the plaque, and after 12 long years I finally felt closure.

This traumatic event led me to question God’s timing, but I have learned it played a huge part in molding me into the person I  am.

After many years, my faith has been restored and with each passing day, putting one foot in front of the other becomes less of a routine.

I would give anything to have my father back, but this daddy’s girl is grateful to know she has such a courageous guardian angel watching over her.

Maegan Mitchell is a sophomore communications major from Longview.

Use common cents

When it comes to managing money on a savings account most people in our generation do not comprehend. Our generation tends to want the best of the best even if it means giving our last few dollars to get it. We need to learn that Social Security and retirement funds are not looking too great for us in the future. So why not start saving now?

First, you can start by setting up a goal to budget your money and decide how much and how often you are willing to save. Come up with a certain amount you want to reach either weekly, monthly or possibly for the entire year.

Now it is time to cut a few luxuries out of your new budget. We sometimes buy things we do not need and that is what people call “buying under the impulse.” That shirt or those shoes might look good, but ask yourself before making the purchase if you really need them.

Then there is credit card debt that is easy to rack up.

According to business majors ask.com, many college students give in to the “buy now, pay later” method. It is tempting and easy to spend a lot of money when all you are doing is swiping a card. If this is something you do often, try hiding or canceling your card until you can get your spending habit under control.

There are plenty of ways you can save and budget your money. Give up bad habits, carpool and bring a lunch instead of eating out every day. Life is not all about the expensive clothes and shoes, so try buying generic brands and spice up your look with accessories. You can also stay inside and find something to do that does not involve money, such as a movie or game night with friends.

Saving and budgeting your money takes you out of your element and it may seem like it is boring, but ask yourself, “Will it be worth it in the future?”