In the age of Artificial Intelligence and cloud databases, 99-year-old Charlie Myers preferred eraser pencils and spiral notebooks.
Myers grew up in a culturally scrutinized minority in Laurel, Mississippi — he was, after all, a Catholic in the biblical belt buckle.
As an inexperienced football coach in the 1940s at Laurel High, Myers wanted to improve his skills, so he arranged a series of surreptitious meetings with Stumpy Springs, coach of the all-Black Oak Grove High School.
For obvious reasons — a minor footnote being that the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi lived in Jones County — white and black coaches couldn’t meet publicly at a coffee shop. They decided to discuss football strategy in the back room of Rose Jewelry, owned by a Jewish man.
“At the time, the Catholics were on the same level as the Jewish and black population,” Bill Myers, one of Charlie’s nine children, said of his father, who died Feb. 6.
In a life of quiet grace, fair play, and pencils with erasers, it’s hard to set in stone what might have been Charlie Myers’ most impressive legacy.
In addition to his civil rights work well ahead of schedule, he forged interfaith meetings for Laurel’s teens in the 1940s because “no one knew anything about the other”. Fifteen weeks into the school year, students attended conferences at different churches to break down religious silos. Charlie, himself, lived across from the Immaculate Conception Church in Laurel.
On a teacher’s salary, he and his wife Carolyn put their nine children through LSU. They attended various Sunday morning masses – he went at 7 a.m. to the Church of Saint-Étienne and Carolyn went at 9 a.m. to the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on the Avenue Napoleon – to keep the Myers clan under control through team management.
“I don’t know how we did it, but we managed to pull through,” Charlie said in a 2009 interview with the Clarion Herald.
Myers, who has coached virtually every sport, taught his basketball players not to make excuses or blame the referees for a loss. “They don’t miss calls as much as we miss foul shots,” he told them.
In the midst of his coaching and teaching duties at New Orleans Academy (NOA) from 1953 to 1986, he also found time to officiate basketball and football games. The brain was the motherboard of his human computer: Without access to email or cellphones, he created – and recreated – the schedules of basketball officials for 59 years and football for 35 years as a secretary assignment.
Myers was so adept at erasing no-shows that he could find a replacement official for a Saturday morning game even late Friday night.
“He knew all the bars we stopped at after games,” an official said. “The bartender was yelling, ‘I’ve got a Charlie Myers on the phone, and he needs two officials for a game tomorrow.’ We tried to move the bars so he couldn’t find us, but he always did, we could never figure out how he knew.
“It was all in that spiral notebook,” Bill Myers said. “He even had a ‘scratch list’ in his head. They were the officials the coaches didn’t want to see at their games anymore, and he tried to honor that.
Charlie’s family only found out last Thanksgiving that he was one of the umpires who officiated the “secret” basketball game between St. Augustine and the Jesuits in 1965 at a time when Southern segregation deep did not allow blacks and whites to confront each other. other. The game was immortalized in the 1999 movie, “Passing Glory.”
Myers opened up about his first assignment story to Father Tony Ricard, minister of the St. Aug campus, and Deacon Uriel Durr, who played for him at NOA.
“Nobody had the courage to ask him, so I asked him: ‘Were you the referee?'” Father Ricard said. “He looked at me with a smile on his face and said, ‘They called for the game and asked if I could send my two best referees. I assigned a guy – and then I also assigned myself.
When the New Orleans Academy closed in 1988, Myers found out from St. Augustine principal Al Peychaud that the school was looking for a chemistry teacher.
“I said to him, ‘I know someone who might be interested,'” Charlie says.
Myers had assigned himself again.
At the age of 66, Myers ended up teaching chemistry, Latin, biology, and earth science, then helping out in the St. Augustine office for more than 30 years.
He was so loved in St. Augustine that the school installed a personal phone line for him so he could continue to do his officials’ schedule work during vacation time.
Even after losing his two-story Lakeview home to Katrina in 2005, Myers returned to St. Aug and worked all mornings as an attendance manager, until his late 90s. was unsafe for him to come to school during the COVID pandemic, he stayed in touch by answering emails.
“He said to me, ‘I just took a little break during the pandemic,'” Fr Ricard said.
“Mr. Myers was an amazing man,” said Suzanne Davidson, human resources manager at St. Augustine. he knew who he was.”
As always, it’s the little things a father intuitively notices that define Charlie Myers. When the rest of his NOA players were excited because they had won their final game of the season, Myers spotted one of his seniors sobbing in the back of the bus.
It was the kid’s last game.
“Congratulations on a great career, son,” the coach told him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder.
Similarly, Father Ricard often saw Myers in the office and threw both his arms around him.
“He was everyone’s grandfather,” Father Ricard said.
“He had a vocation and he was responding to a call from God,” he added. “Think about it. It was the 1940s and he was meeting black people in a Jewish store. This man was at the forefront of civil rights. This man was participating in civil rights before there was even ‘Passing Glory’. He was doing his own thing to bring people together.
Myers never talked about himself.
Take out a pencil and write it down.