BY JESSE SMITHEY
Fulton High School is undoubtedly all about family.
And when you speak of Fulton Family, you begin with the father figure, Coach Bob Black.
Black, though, has been absent from the sidelines and athletics fields in recent years, as health battles with Alzheimer’s robbed him of where he loved to be most.
His fight ended Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, as his family members took to social media to announce that he passed away.
Bob Black was 80 years old.
“My Dad, Our Hero, ‘Coach Bob Black’ entered into The Gates of Heaven this afternoon,” wrote Kelley Black Seymour.
“Today he has been made brand new in his Heavenly Home. We appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers.”
Impossible to calculate is the amount of lives he positively impacted in his more than 50 years of service to Fulton High School. Black graduated from Fulton in 1960. It’s where he met his wife, Brenda, as well.
And after playing football at Carson-Newman, he returned to his high school alma mater to start coaching in 1965.
He began as an assistant and only served as a head coach there at Fulton for two years (1969, 1970).
But the impacts he made as an assistant coach and as an administrator were large enough to get him inducted into the TSSAA Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
He was inducted into the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
His son, Rob, also played and coached at Fulton. Rob Black was inducted into the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 2020. He and his father helped Fulton Football, as assistant coaches, win state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Rob Black took over as head football coach at Fulton in 2011, winning state titles in 2012, 2013, and 2014. He stepped down in 2021 to become an assistant athletic director.
Falcon Field became “Bob Black Field” in 1986.
The school honored him for his 50 years of service in 2014, the city of Knoxville proclaiming Aug. 23 to be “Bob Black Day” at a pregame ceremony that night nine years ago.
“I would never have dreamed I’d be fortunate enough to have a job like this,” Black told the Knoxville Sentinel in Aug. 2014. “In fact, I don’t call it a job.
“I love going to Fulton every day.”
Fulton athletics director and longtime boys’ basketball coach Jody Wright said Monday evening that the footprint left behind by Bob Black was simply gigantic.
“Man, I tell you, he was a legend,” Wright said. “We use the words ‘legend’ and ‘icon’ loosely. Buddy, I’m telling you, this guy fit the bill. He was just so many things to so many people. I was trying to describe him to a lady in Middle Tennessee today who did not know him. I said to her: ‘In the springtime, he was an SEC baseball umpire. In the summertime, he ran the (local) swimming pool. In the fall, he was a football coach (at Fulton) and on the chain crew (on Saturdays) at UT. And in the winter, he was the national director of junior pro. All along, he was an athletic director and a teacher. She said, ‘You’re kidding me. One guy did all that?’
“So many times I used Coach Black as a reference point. I am the man I am today because of his influence. If I had a nickel for every life he has touched and every life that he has influenced, I would be beyond wealthy. There’s so many people, there for years and years, whose lives he changed. He loves kids. One time, they offered him a job downtown. They wanted him to be the athletic director (for Knox County Schools). And he wouldn’t do it. I asked him why he didn’t go. He said, ‘There ain’t no kids downtown. Why would I want to go downtown at the central office? You don’t deal with kids.’ He knew his mission and his influence was to help kids. He didn’t want to be in a situation where he wasn’t impacting kids.”
Wright added: “He’s in all these halls of fame. It’s hard to believe all he did. It really is. He did it in such a way that’s kind of hard to describe. What Fulton is, is because of guys like Bob Black. When I became an athletics director, I wanted to do exactly what Coach Black did. Every decision that I did, literally, I thought: ‘How did Coach Black handle this? How would Coach Black handle this?’ So many times, I sat down with him and said, ‘Coach, how do we do this? What should we do here?’ … He was the standard. He was the mentor to so many of us. We learned at the foot of a guy who really knew what it was all about. I came to Fulton when I was 23 or 24 years old, trying to figure it out. I got to learn from a guy like Coach Black that showed me ‘this is what it’s about. Jody, this is how you do it and this is what it’s about.’ How many guys get a break (in their careers) like that?”
“Rob reminds me so much of his dad in so many ways. He’s a jack of all trades. Heart of gold. The best legacy we have as parents is our kids. Rob honored his dad every day in the way he lived. He did stuff the way Coach Black would have done it, the way he was taught. He honored Coach Black every day.”
TBT with Coach Bob Black in the program of the 1960 City-County All-Star Game. pic.twitter.com/Bz1BfJlhH9
— Fulton Football (@FultonFootball) July 21, 2016