by Bob Linnenberg ’63
Anyone visiting Withrow these days will see ANGUS KING STADIUM in big white letters on the green artificial turf sideline of the playing field. Most of these visitors would be unaware that honoree Angus King was the football coach from 1931 to 1945 and the foremost winning coach in the first 50 years of Withrow’s existence. With a record of 98 wins, 30 losses and 5 ties, the Withrow “King’s Men” had an undefeated season of 9 wins in 1934 and a winning season of 8 wins and one tie in 1941. The teams of 1932 and 1939 had 8 wins and suffered only one defeat each. In all, Withrow garnered 10 city football championships during Mr. King’s 14 years of coaching. In the 1934 season alone, Withrow’s opponents scored only a total of 18 points while coach Kings’s Tigers scored 206.
Angus King was a 1922 graduate of Ohio University in Athens, where he lettered in basketball and baseball. For a short time after college, he played pro baseball in the minor leagues before beginning his high school coaching career in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Upon arriving at Withrow in the fall of 1931, Coach King found that his first team had only two returning lettermen and over 70 inexperienced recruits. Nevertheless, he shaped up his squad and finished the season second in the league.
In addition to the coach’s prowess on the gridiron, Mr. King was also the baseball coach during his tenure at Withrow. His 1934 baseball team won the state championship, the first Cincinnati area team to claim that title. The record of 34 runs for Withrow versus 5 runs for their opponents in the finals evinces the strength of the team. In all, the Withrow baseball teams won one district championship, two state titles, and seven league championships under coach King.
In 1945 Mr. King left Withrow and coaching to become assistant director of physical education for Cincinnati Public Schools. He was promoted to supervisor of athletics in 1948, a position he held until his retirement in 1966 after 45 years advancing high school sports. As director, he developed programs in the public schools that promoted all sports for young men, not just football and basketball. Stressing physical fitness in all forms, Coach King was quoted as saying, “Not everyone is going to become a big star, but that’s not the point of high school athletics, anyway”.
One of his final acts as athletics chief was to see that lights were installed in the Withrow stadium. Up until that time, the only public high school football night games had to be held at Trechter Stadium (Named for Howard Trechter, a 1928 Withrow graduate) at Central Vocational High School (now Cincinnati State, ed.).
Mr. King served as president of the Southwestern Ohio High Athletic Board of Control for many years. He was named an All-Ohio Coach by Scripps-Howard newspapers in 1938 and posthumously inducted into the Buddy LaRosa Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. Mr. King was a scout for the Cincinnati Reds from 1947 to 1965. He died in July of 1969.
Upon coach King’s departure in the fall of 1945, returning WWII veteran William Gilliland was selected to head up Withrow’s football program. Coach Gilliland had been a star athlete at Western Hills High School and played football under coach Dana King, Angus King’s brother, at the University of Cincinnati. President of the senior class of 1933, Mr. Gilliland was “Honorary Captain” of the UC football team and an all-Ohio fullback. After graduation, he coached at Crescent Springs High School for several seasons, assisted as a line coach at UC and was football coach at Wilmington College. Prior to serving in the war, he was football coach and athletic director at Walnut Hills High School.
Coach Gilliland ran the Withrow football program from 1946 through 1953 and sustained a record of 49 wins, 20 losses and 3 ties. The 1952 season of 8 wins and one loss was his most successful one; his teams copped the Public High crown in 1951 and shared the top with Hughes in 1953.
In 1954 coach Gilliland stepped down from coaching but remained as head of football as the athletic director at Withrow. He retired in 1972 after 27 years at Withrow. He passed away in January of 1973.
Prior to Angus King’s arrival at Withrow, the football coach was former United States Marine veteran Nelson Walke. Coach Walke, a Hughes High School graduate, was at East High/Withrow High from 1922 to 1931. His 1928 team, with 8 wins and one tie, scored 325 points to the opponents’ 51. When Mr. Walke took over from coach Arthur Reisner, he established the practice of early pre-season games with strong teams from central and southern Ohio. Coach Walke felt that this competition would give his boys experience and toughness for when they met city teams in league play. In his first year as coach East High won the city championship. Mr. Walke’s teams continued to have winning seasons, garnering the city championship again in 1929. A multi-talented individual, coach Walke assisted the new band director, George G. Smith, in organizing a student variety show which they called the Withrow Minstrels in 1930. Coach Walke’s name appears on the program above Smitties’.
Coach Walke left Withrow in 1931 to further his education. He coached and taught at the Pennsylvania State University and Columbia University and obtained his doctorate from Columbia in 1937. The author of a college textbook on health and physical education, Dr. Walke retired as Professor and Chair, Department of Health and Physical Education, at Brooklyn College, New York. He died in 1974, and he and his wife, who was also a Physical Education teacher at Withrow, are buried here in Cincinnati.
Early coaches of other sports: Reuter, Wirth, Nimmo, Sherman and Huheey, left to right below:
No article on Withrow’s early coaches would be complete without following Angus King’s dictum that ALL sports are important, not just football. Legendary coach Fred “Doc” Reuter, one of the original phys-ed faculty members, ran the track program from 1923 to1942 and served as cross-county coach until 1947. Ray Wirth, who taught at Withrow from 1931 to 1972, coached the swimming team from 1932 to 1954, cross country from 1948 to 1950 and volleyball 1935-1937. Popular Phys-Ed teacher Lomond Nimmo coached basketball 1939-1941, track 1943-1956, cross-county 1951-1956, and assisted coaches King and Gilliland with football 1939-1948. Another polymath, he also entertained generations of Withrowites with his bagpipe playing. Social studies teacher Harold Sherman coached the tennis team on and off from 1941 to 1960. Many fine coaches served at Withrow in the first fifty years. One man in particular, basketball and baseball coach John Huheey, will be the subject of a future article.