Former Leesville High School teacher, assistant principal and coach Richie Bullock attended Progress High School, no longer in existence, where he was an excellent student and an outstanding football player.
"I was born and grew up on a farm near Tylertown, Mississippi,” Bullock said. “I have been pretty much a country boy at heart all my life.”
After graduation he enrolled at nearby Southwest Community College in Summit on a football scholarship.
Bullock stayed there for two years before transferring to Louisiana College in Pineville on a football scholarship. He attended Louisiana College from 1954 to 1956, where he was a physical education major with a science minor, and played on the football team.
"In those days we played both ways,” Bullock said. “I was a guard on offense and linebacker on defense.” He was selected co-captain his senior year, and his head coach was Jimmy Keith.
He moved to Leesville in 1956 where he taught biology and coached football at Leesville High School.
Bullock married his wife, Sandra, in June 1958. She taught at several Vernon Parish elementary schools.
He has many fond reminiscences of his time in Leesville.
"Coach Faircloth had just come over from Texas as the head coach,” Bullock said. “He had coached at Texas A&M. Coach Ted Paris, a Leesville native who played for LSU, and I were assistant coaches.
“Leesville High and the Junior High were on the ‘Hill’ on West Texas Street. We practiced football behind the school on a field that was nothing but hard clay – it was tough. Luckily we played our home games in Wampus Cat Stadium across from the present high school.”
The first year the Wampus Cats won one game. The second year they were 6-4 and the third year they were 8-2.
Bullock went with Faircloth in 1959 to Bolton High School in Alexandria. When Paris became head coach, he asked him to come back to Leesville, and he accepted his offer.
Paris's football staff included coach Keith Munyan, Norman Solis, and Bullock. Munyan accepted the head coaching position in 1963 at Mangham High School and Solis joined the staff.
"I had already graduated from LC but I had watched Keith Munyan play at LC. He was from Jackson, Ohio. He had been in the Marine Corp and attended a Junior College,” Bullock said. “I think he came to Leesville High while I was at Bolton. ‘Moose’ and I got along fine.
“He was a very good athlete, and a very good coach. He could play football, baseball and basketball. Norman Solis was from Jacksonville, Florida and played football at Southwest Mississippi (JC All-American) and then at Louisiana College. He was a really good football player.”
Fort Polk reopened in 1961 and Leesville High School enrolled many really good students and athletes who mixed in with the local kids.
About this time Leesville High started a track team and Bullock coached track. The program got a real boost when a miler named Mike Wheatley ran for the tracksters. "He inspired others to run track," Bullock said.
The class of 1964 (1963 season) won district in football. The team played DeRidder (who had won their district) in the last game of the regular season.
The Dragons held out some of their best players, including Tommy "Trigger" Allen.
The Cats defeated the Dragons in the home stadium. The very next week the two teams played again in the first round of the state playoffs. DeRidder won the rematch.
In the second round, DeRidder lost to Minden. That game was played at the NSU Stadium in Natchitoches. Minden later won the Double A State Championship, defeating Lacrosse Cutoff 28-21.
The Bullocks moved to Baker in 1966, just north of Baton Rouge.
"Mainly we chose Baker because it was only 80 miles from where I was raised,” Bullock said.
At Baker High he taught biology but did not coach.
Later he became the assistant principal and stayed there until he retired. The family still lives in Baker, and owns 180 acres in Mississippi.
"Years ago we raised beef cattle," Bullock said. “After finishing up my school responsibilities on Fridays, we headed north.
“On Saturday morning I was on a tractor. I was always a little country at heart.
“Saturday afternoon we drove back to Baker.
"In 1987, when I retired, I sold all the cows. Now I have pine trees – they don't get out of the fence! And it has been a pretty good investment. Every 12 or so years I thin the timber.
“At age 82, I just go out there and stand in the highway and listen for those pine trees grow."
The Bullock's daughter, Sherry, is in North Carolina with her family. Another daughter, Lisa, married a boy from Baker. Her husband has a job with Exxon and they are in Singapore now. The Bullock's have three granddaughters and one grandson.
Remembering the old days, Bullock said, "Those were some really good years. I have every school yearbook from Leesville and Baker. Quite often I will go back and pick one up and start thumbing through it.
“There are a lot of people I had respect for. Lots of good students – it was a really good academic school. I was always grateful for my years there."
Reflecting on the meaning of it all, Bullock said, "Sometimes I ask the Lord why he has let me live this long."
But we know why! You may never know how many lives you have touched along the way, and influenced in a positive way.
Thank you, Coach Bullock, for the difference you have made in our lives.
Billy Crawford is presently retired after serving 40-plus years in Louisiana public education, with 28 of them in Vernon Parish. Recently he has enjoyed reconnecting with former students, friends and colleagues who have roots in the Leesville area and now live elsewhere. He has found their life’s path interesting, informative, and most of all, inspiring.