Thursday, December 24, 2015

Former Evergreen coach Cliff Little passed away in Opelika on Nov. 11

James "Cliff" Little III
One of our readers let me know the sad news last week that former Evergreen High School football and basketball coach James “Cliff” Little III had passed away.

Many older Evergreen residents will remember Little, who passed away at the age of 76 on Nov. 11 at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.

Little, a native of Montgomery, first came to Conecuh County during the summer of 1965 after being hired to serve as Evergreen High School’s head football coach and head basketball coach. Little replaced John Law Robinson, who served as Evergreen’s head football and basketball coach for four years before resigning to “devote his full time to his large farming and cattle operations at Fairview.”

The Evergreen High School job was Little’s first head football coaching job, but according to the July 1, 1965 edition of The Evergreen Courant, he came “highly recommended by top athletic authorities over the state.”

In his high school days, Little was the starting quarterback on the first football team ever fielded by Lee High School in Montgomery in 1955, and he helped lead Coach Tom Jones’ team to a state championship in 1958. His performance in high school led to a full scholarship at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where he also started at quarterback. While at Wake Forest, Little earned a bachelor’s degree, majoring in physical education with a minor in math.

After college, Little returned to Alabama, where he served as an assistant football coach and head basketball coach at the high school in Moundville, just south of Tuscaloosa, during the 1963-64 school year. The following year, he returned to Montgomery, where he served as an assistant football coach and head basketball coach at Catholic High School.

Little served as Evergreen’s head football coach for two seasons, going 5-14-1 overall. At the time, Evergreen was considered a 2A school, and Little’s 1965 team went 0-10. His 1966 squad, which gave up an average of just 8.7 points per game, went 5-4-1 overall.

Players on those Evergreen teams included Jimmy Bell, Glenn Bolton, John Brantley, Wayne Caylor, Homer Faulkner, Ronald Halford, Harold Hamiter, Jimmy Hamiter, Leon Hinson, Bubba Mininger, Don Montgomery, Ronald Parker, Rusty Price, Elliott Quarles, Eddie Ralls, Oland Robison, Ernest Shipp, Forrest Simpson, Ed Smith, Bill Snowden, George Stinson, Tim Stinson, Brent Thornley, Lavon Tolbert, Hollis Tranum, Roger Waller, Jack White, Moreno White and Larry Windham.

Little departed Evergreen after the 1966 season, but the rest, as they say, is history. He returned to Catholic High School in Montgomery, where he served as head football coach from 1967 to 1973, leading the school to their first ever state playoff appearance in 1971. During that time, his Catholic teams went 31-38-2.

From there, Little got the job he is best known for. From 1974 through the 1979 football season, Little served as the head football coach at Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery. During his time there, his teams went 38-27 overall, and the 1977 and 1978 seasons were perhaps the finest of his career.

In 1977, the Poets went 10-3 overall, losing in the 4A state semifinals, 10-3, to eventual state champion Berry in Cramton Bowl. In 1978, Lanier went 11-2 overall, losing again in the 4A state semi-finals, 14-6, to eventual state champion and cross-town rival, Jeff Davis. The 1977 and 1978 teams at Lanier are considered to be among the greatest in school history, posting an overall record of 21-5.
After his time at Lanier, Little returned to Catholic Montgomery, where he served as head football coach from 1981 to 1985. During that time, his teams went 23-23-2.

Little is survived by is son, James C. Little IV (Jimmy), daughter-in-law Rebecca Bostic Little, and grandchildren Rachel M. Little and James C. Little V (Tyler). He was preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, Susan Beasley Little.

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