NOTE: This is the fourth part of a series published exclusively in the Jackson Parish Journal that celebrates the achievements of the six athletes and three Special Award winners that will be inducted into the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame on August 7th. This week: Clyde Berry
Many iconic sports figures have graced the hallowed halls of Jonesboro-Hodge High School over the past one hundred plus years. There may have been someone who had more charisma and character or was more beloved than this long time due, inductee into the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame but it is doubtful. If there was, then as former Houston Oiler head football coach Bum Phillips said when asked if there was ever a better running back than Earl Campbell “It don’t take long to call the roll.”
If you ever had the opportunity to meet and get to know Clyde Berry, you were better for it. If you ever got the chance to be coached by him you were incredibly blessed. Ask any Jonesboro-Hodge athlete from the mid to late 1950’s and they will tell you, to a person, that he was instrumental in not only developing their skill as an athlete but had a great impact on them through the lessons about life he taught that many echoed to their own children and grandchildren.
Berry was the ultimate motivator who had the uncanny knack of getting the most out of a player and even more than they knew they had to offer. It didn’t matter the sport. Be it football, basketball, track, baseball and even boxing, whatever the native of Stuttgart, AR had his hand in, winning records and personal best achievements always followed.
The legacy he left at Jonesboro-Hodge, although short in duration, is unmatched. Not only did he coach virtually every sport that the school endeavored to participate in he was the founding father of not one, but two programs, one which that when he left the school never participated in again.
Baseball got its beginning at JHHS under Berry and what better a person to start it. During his playing days at Stuttgart High, where he lettered in an incredible SIX sports, baseball was what he was considered best at. This led him to going to Arkansas College (now known as Lyon College) for two years where he is a member of their Sports Hall of Fame.
The next two years he attended Henderson State University (HSU) where besides being their top baseball player he also played football, golf and ran track. He is in their Hall of Fame too but not just because of his athletic prowess but for another reason as well. (More on that below)
After graduating from HSU in 1952 he played a year of minor league baseball for the Topeka Owls and the Madisonville Miners before joining an Army Artillery Battalion for 18 months. It was after his service to this country that he became a coach at Jonesboro-Hodge for four years
Baseball wasn’t the only sport Berry is credited with starting at Jonesboro-Hodge but also boxing. That is correct, BOXING! The team he formed competed for only two years but in that short period he coached the school to a state championship title. He also produced two Golden Glove state champions, including fellow class of 2021 Hall of Fame inductee, Floyd Miles, which bestows the honor on the two as becoming the first competitor and coach from the same team to be inducted into the shrine the same year.
As a testament to the greatness of Berry, his exploits as a coach at Jonesboro-Hodge is just a small spattering on his illustrious resume. After earning his Doctorate degree in Education from Northwestern State University, Berry became the head baseball coach at Henderson State in 1963, where he led his alma mater to an Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship in 1965. He held that position until 1967 before in an unprecedented move, gave it up to become the head FOOTBALL coach at the university.
How rare is that? What is even rarer is that after leading HSU to the AIC baseball championship, just four years later, he led his football team to the conference title. To put that into perspective a search in Google of how many coaches have won collegiate conference championships as a baseball and football coach come back with the reply of THERE ARE NO MATCHES FOR YOUR INQUIRY.
From 1967-70 Berry compiled a 26-14 record on the gridiron before once again going back to the baseball diamond where he guided the HSU squad for another 17 years until hanging up his spikes in 1987. His overall coaching record over his 25 year tenure as the school’s baseball coach was 205-129 that included another championship in 1982 to go along with the one won in 1965.
Proving the old adage that you can “take the man out of the game but you can’t take the game out of the man” in 1990 and at the age of 59 years old, Berry realized a life-long dream when he opened the Jay Berry Baseball Camp in Queen City, TX. For eight years he provided instruction to countless numbers of young baseball players who was graced to learn the sport from one of the best instructors that could be found.
You have heard exceptional athletes sometimes called “generational players”, meaning someone like that only comes around every ten years or so. This year Coach Clyde Berry will be 90 years old. It is safe to say that this rare man is a “Centurial Coach.”