Athletics at William Penn
In 1945, the football team went 1-2, with the one win being an upset over a strong Carver High team from Winston-Salem.
W. Brown, J. B. Sanders, Billy McNeil, Henry Simon, F. Sanders, P. Robinson, L. Foxx, R. Anderson, A. Carter, A. Lighter, J.C.Harrell, J. Toby, J. Smith, C. Steed, F. Baker, B. McNeil, M. Craft with Coach Mr. M. O. Johnson, back left and Assistant Coach Mr. T. W. Hughes, back right
Coach James Atkinson
James W. Atkinson was born February 11th, 1921. He attended Friendship College in Rock Hill, South Carolina before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942 to fight in World War II. When he returned home, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies and Health and Physical Education from the North Carolina College for Negroes and his Master’s degree in Health & Physical Education from Columbia University.
In 1953, he was hired as the head football and track and field coach at William Penn. During his fifteen years as football coach (a tenure that ended when William Penn closed in 1968), Atkinson’s teams compiled a record of 95 wins, 34 losses, and 13 ties. During that time, he led the Tigers to three district titles and three regional titles, and in 1960 the team won the State Negro 3-A Football Championship. Atkinson was a tough but beloved and selfless coach and teacher who brought out the best in his players and his students.
After William Penn closed, he became assistant head coach at High Point Central High School, where he helped players adjust to integration. That team made the state finals in 1972. Atkinson retired from education and coaching in 1984 and was inducted into the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He died June 18, 2013 at the age of 92, but lives on in memory of his players and students.
Coach George Foree
Excerpt from 1968 High Point Enterprise
For the first time in one hundred years William Penn High School of High Point has won the 4-A North Carolina High School State Basketball Championship. The school, which was started by Quakers in 1868, will close this fall. Penn had previously won championships in every sport except basketball.
The Penn Tigers, opening the season with a 90-75 loss to Atkins of Winston-Salem, came on to win eight straight games before Laurinburg Institute snapped the winning streak. The Tigers lost only one conference game and ended the season with a 20-6 overall record. After winning the conference title, the Tigers entered the tournament as favorites and went on to win the District title and entered the state tourney at Wilson as top seeded team from the western part of the state.
Penn made it through the first two rounds of play by walloping E. E. Smith of Fayetteville by a score of 75-36 and Hillside of Durham by 49-45 to move into the finals, which were played at High Point College Alumni gymnasium on March 13. Neither team from the eastern part of the state made it to the finals, which forced the Tigers to play a team from its own District. Having beaten the Paisley Panthers of Winston-Salem three times, the Tigers again entered the game as favorites. After facing a few final scares, Penn went on to capture the state championship by a score of 63-58.
Robert Dunbar of William Penn was voted the most valuable player of the tourney and of the Tigers squad. The rebounding of Randy Reid and Jerry Camp, and the outside shooting of Jimmy Bethea and Eddie Clinton played big parts in the successful year. Dunbar, one of the smaller players on the team, had one of his nights in the semifinals of the state championship. In that game Penn scored 49 points, and 22 of those belonged to Dunbar.
In 1945, the Women's Basketball team won four straight to start the season, but they finished with 7 wins and 11 losses.
Annie Jones, Bernice Pinnix, Lucille Gilmore, Louise Alston, Lula Lendon, Martha Phillips, and Elouise Levette with Coach Mrs. C. H. Caldwell