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Honoring Slater Wolves
Honoring Slater Wolves
Posted on 02/09/2022
Slater Wolves

On Friday, February 4, at Volunteer High School, Tennessee High School boys and girls basketball teams paid tribute to Bristol’s former Slater High School Wolves when they hit the court in the Wolves black and orange. Earlier in the week to prepare for Friday’s special game, Tommy McDaniel (lovingly known as Captain Mac by most in Bristol for his many years of service with the Bristol Tennessee Police Department) and three of his former Slater High classmates visited practice to speak with players about their memories playing for the Slater Wolves in the early 1960s.

Before black and white students were integrated in Bristol in 1965, Slater High School served the black students of Bristol since 1919. McDaniel, Walter Morton, Lawrence Bell, and Wayne Daggs all played basketball at Slater for Coach Dorsey Sims. Sims coached at Slater from 1960-1965 and led the team to a 106-21 record. The men reflected on lessons they learned from Coach Sims and each other during their years at Slater.

Captain McDaniel told the players that Coach Sims taught his athletes to take what little they had and make something out of it. “Coach Sims taught us to make the best of whatever we had,” McDaniel said. “He taught us teamwork, caring, and to love one another.”

“When we played, we gave it our all. I didn’t care if I didn’t get in the game but a second, I didn’t want Coach Sims to say I was loafing. I did it all. If I sat the bench, you can rest assured I sat that bench with pride. I was part of that team. Because when we came home win or lose, it didn’t say Tom McDaniel did this, it said Slater High Wolves, orange and black.”

McDaniel ended by telling the students that it’s not where they start, it’s where they end up. He thanked them for honoring the Wolves. “Our hearts go out to you. I want to say thank you. It’s not about you. It’s about others, and that’s what you all are doing. Wear that orange and black with pride.”

Morton, who remembers learning to play basketball at a goal outside McDaniel’s house, also spoke of the proud heritage of Slater School.

“Slater was a very small school from first through twelfth grades, maybe 200 students,” Morton said. “We would go to some of the bigger schools and most of the time we would win because we had pride in what we were doing. The athletes we produced were some of the better athletes in the area.”

Lawrence Bell, who McDaniel shared was the first black player to play at King College, also spoke about pride and the other important lessons he learned from Coach Sims. Sims was a standout college football player for Tennessee State University who never played organized basketball. Coach Sims was inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame in 1992. He coached basketball at five high schools and won four TSSAA State Championships, two at Riverside High School in Chattanooga and two at Melrose High School in Memphis.

“Coach Sims instilled in us pride,” Bell said. “We dressed alike. We dressed well. We had a black blazer with a wolf emblem on the pocket. Wherever we went, he instilled pride in us.”

“If there’s one thing I want you to know it is that we are happy that you are honoring us, and that you do remember Slater by wearing the orange and black,” Bell said. “Keep in mind, high school is a precious time. Never forget. Cherish your teachers and parents. Do what’s right. Down the road you won’t regret it.”

McDaniel introduced the final speaker with, “No one can say anything bad about this man. Wayne Daggs had a certain walk in the hallway. We had guys who imitated his walk because of who he was.”

Daggs did not have anything bad to say about his principals, coaches, or fellow students at Slater either. He has fond memories of that time and especially on the basketball court.

Coach Sims had a song “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go” by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters,” Daggs said. “When that song came on, Slater came out on the floor, and then the fight was on. People lived to come to the games on Fridays and Tuesdays.”

“When you play ball, when you play a team, whatever you do, do it from the heart. Do it to win,” Daggs said. “Sometimes you don’t win. Sometimes if you lose. If you played hard, you still win because you gave it all you got. Everything you do, give it 100%. When you wear the orange and black, all these people we mentioned here today, you are wearing it for these people. They would be proud; as I am proud.”

 

History of John F. Slater High School

In 1915, the Bristol Tennessee Board of Education used a donation from the J. F. Slater Foundation to buy the Normal Institute on McDowell Street. About that time, the name was changed to McDowell High School.

In 1919, the school graduated five students and that class was given the honor of choosing a new name for the school. The name John F. Slater High School was chosen in honor of the school’s benefactor.

In 1955, the new, larger school was built, which served as the high school for black students in Bristol until they began attending Tennessee High School in 1965. The Slater Center now serves the City of Bristol as a Community Center.

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