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Waco remembers football, civil rights legend

Waco remembers football, civil rights legend
Posted at 9:49 PM, Nov 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 08:57:29-05

NORTH WACO, TX — Waco said goodbye to a legend Saturday.

Friends and family gathered at the Dewey Community Center, to celebrate the life of Lewis (Les) Ritcherson.

A man who quietly, but deliberately bridged the days of segregation through the civil rights era, and on, to today.

Lewis Ritcherson, say friends and family, had an impact on those who knew him and especially those of us who didn't.

More than one hundred people gathered Saturday to say good by to a man who touched countless lives in Waco and beyond.

"To Waco he was a motivator for young people," said Noah Jackson.

And he motivated many, including jackson, one of AJ Moore High School's fearsome "Jackson Trio".

"He took me and made me a better person by helping me to understand that there's good in life," he said.

Jackson says coach Ritcherson took an un-motivated team in hand-me-down uniforms and turned them into champions, and along the way getting them the new equipment and uniforms they deserved.

Coach and his teams at Moore scored 138 wins, including 4 Texas state championships. and just 38 losses.

Coach Ritcherson's winning ways caught the attention of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where he became the schools first black football coach and first in the Big Ten.

Later, he became assistant to the Chancellor at Wisconsin where he helped institute numerous civil rights reforms throughout the University system.

Many here, called Coach Ritcherson the kind of man people write books about.

"Right now, he's in two books that I know of. He's in a lot of magazine articles, newspaper articles. He's been inducted to a lot of different halls of fame and halls of honor," said his son Lewis Ritcherson, II, His son and namesake, who says didn't always get the recognition he deserved..but he kept working until he did.

"The one from the Texas High School Coaches Association, I'm really proud of that one, they didn't let black coaches from black schools into that organization," he said.

And while most of us only hope we can make our mark in life, Coach Ritcherson made hundreds, maybe thousands, among the players and others he motivated, at a time when motivation came hard to some.

Noah Jackson recalls coach Ritcherson's most enduring lesson.

"You have to understand that there's joy in the journey, if you're a good person. There's joy in the journey through life. I believed that then and I believe that now," he said.

In my conversations people at the reception talked of a man who helped change Waco, and the nation through motivation... as he himself pushed for positive change.