The state of Louisiana lost one of its most revered high school football coaches on Sunday.
Jimmy “Chick” Childress, the face of Ruston High School football for 12 seasons and a former baseball coach at ULM, died at Northern Louisiana Medical Center in Ruston. He was 83.
Childress built Ruston in his image with a punishing offense and stifling defense, leading his alma mater to a 131-27 (82 percent) record and four Class 4A state championships in 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990. His body of work while on the sidelines of James Field at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium earned him a place in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
The Bearcats brought a high school national championship to Lincoln Parish in 1990 following a 52-10 win over Catholic-Baton Rouge in that season’s 4A state title game.
Ruston football in the 1980s was defined by championship gold and intense battles with Neville. Childress understood the historic rivalry from both side having spent 15 years coaching alongside Bill Ruple and Charlie Brown at Neville.
The two schools met twice for state titles on the Superdome turf. Ruston beat Neville 8-0 in 1982 and set a 4A Prep Classic record for most punts (9) and punt returns (7) by one team.
Ruston’s record 52 points scored in the 1990 Class 4A state title game still stands today.
Most thought of Childress and Brown as enemies standing on opposite sidelines but that assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. They carpooled to work together at Neville every day and stayed close despite the rivalry.
The national championship was Childress’ swan song at Ruston. He traded one alma mater for another when he stepped down following the 1990 season and took a job as the football recruiting coordinator at ULM in the fall of 1991, his second stint with the program.
When Childress finally settled into retirement, he did it in Ruston. He was a frequent visitor at the football field house that bears his name over the last two seasons to visit with current head coach Brad Laird, his national champion quarterback.
Childress was a part of nine state championship teams in his career; four as the head coach at Ruston, four as an assistant coach at Neville and one as a player at Ruston in 1947.
After graduating from Ruston, Childress headed east to play football at ULM in 1951. He put his career on hold to serve in the Army and finished his career in 1956, where he was voted the team’s most valuable player and named third team All-Gulf States Conference.
Between his time at Neville and Ruston, Childress was the head baseball coach at ULM and an assistant football coach under Ollie Keller from 1974-75.
He spent three years coaching at Cedar Creek before taking over at Ruston in 1979.