Bedford County Board of Education recently approved a proposal to dedicate Cascade Middle School’s gym floor in memory of the late James Franklin “Coach” Cotham — a long-time educator and school athletic director. The official dedication will be held Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the school...
Bedford County Board of Education recently approved a proposal to dedicate Cascade Middle School’s gym floor in memory of the late James Franklin “Coach” Cotham — a long-time educator and school athletic director. The official dedication will be held Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the school.
“Coach Cotham” as he was affectionately known, was praised in a letter of recommendation recently for having provided much insight and leadership during critical times in Cascade’s history. Though it could have easily gone without saying in this community, it was mentioned that the beloved coach impressed great moral character upon his teams over nearly two decades.
“He coached his teams not to only be competitive, but to be students of good character and to represent their school and community with honor,” said Cascade Middle School Principal David Parker, who brought the recommendation to the school board during its recent business meeting.
Before the request was unanimously approved, BCBE chair Diane Neeley asked for clarification that this dedication was just for the gym floor, not the entire gym. Parker said yes and stated that upon approval, it will be named, “Cotham Court.”
“The gym floor is due to be refinished and at that time, it will be painted properly,” said Bedford County Schools Superintendent Don Embry.
Cotham died Aug. 22, 2017, at age 81. A variety of speakers, including former basketball players, teachers, and friends, reminisced about his life between the 1965-72 Bell Buckle Blue Devils and 1973-89 Cascade Champions.
A memorial service was held in 2017 at the old Cascade High gym, now Cascade Middle School.
Cascade Middle School Principal David Parker has worked with retired educator Hal Skelton, a long-time friend of Cotham’s, on the official recommendation. Parker, also a former athlete, stated in his letter to the board, “Because of his professionalism, dedication, moral standards and longevity to Cascade High School, and particularly, its basketball program, I think it would be a fitting tribute to his memory to dedicate the Cascade Middle School gymnasium floor to Coach Cotham. I would wholeheartedly recommend such a resolution by the board.”
Parker had personal experience working with Cotham as a Cascade educator. Pending board approval, he had already arranged with current Cascade High principal Josh Young for the high school to hold one of their games at CMS and to hold a formal dedication at that time for Cotham.
“This would be the last high school game played on that floor,” explained Parker.
He further stated, “With the inception of Cascade High School in the fall of 1972, ‘Coach Cotham’ was an integral part of the formation and unification of Wartrace and Bell Buckle high schools into the new Cascade School. He was instrumental in the overall athletic program’s smooth transition. His insight and leadership were very important at this critical time in the school’s history.”
Cotham is survived by his wife, Linda Edwards Cotham, of Bell Buckle and two daughters, Robin Clanton and Kim Smith. The Cothams have four granddaughters, Blair Nicole Clanton, Kaley Beth Clanton, Lauren Hope Clanton, and Alison Faith Smith.
“Coach Cotham” was a native of Linden; his mother died of cancer when he was 11. His stepmother and former school teacher, Ethel Kimble Cotham, was said to have greatly impacted his life in education.
The coach was a member of Perry County’s state winning basketball team during the 1954-55 season. Parker stated in his letter that his beloved “Coach” went on to become the head boys coach when Bell Buckle and Wartrace high schools combined into Cascade High after the Bell Buckle school burned.
This is a long tenure for a high school basketball coach at the same school and fans say it is a testament to the quality of his work, his commitment and respect of the Cascade community. He remained at Cascade after his coaching career until his official retirement from education.
“He coached his teams to not only be competitive, but to be students of good character and to represent their school and community with honor. He was also a very good classroom teacher — required his students to reach for a high academic level,” Parker said.
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