High School Sports

‘It’s a tremendous loss.’ Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame member dies

Former Central High School basketball coach James Redd.
Former Central High School basketball coach James Redd. photo@ledger-enquirer.com

A member of the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame died Thursday.

James Redd, who coached the Central-Phenix City boys basketball from 1974-75 through 1987-88, died at Piedmont Columbus Regional’s Midtown Medical Center after a brief illness, his son Kelvin told the Ledger-Enquirer. He was 75.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

In 14 seasons, Redd led the Red Devils to a record of 255-64, four area championships, four Elite Eights and one Final Four. Kelvin, however, cites a different statistic to summarize his father’s impact:

He helped 40 of his players earn college scholarships.

“Daddy lived in two different worlds,” said Kelvin, a leadership coach/strategist and former member of the Phenix City Board of Education.

Indeed, while high school coaches often teach physical education, Redd took on the load of chemistry and physics, including Advanced Placement courses.

“He retired early from mental exhaustion,” Kelvin said.

Redd grew up in Phenix City and graduated from South Girard High School in 1961 and from Alabama State University in 1965. After teaching and coaching at the former Barbour County Training School — where he coached Travis Grant, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame after leaving Kentucky State as college basketball’s career leading scorer — Redd was one of the first three black teachers at Central when the high school integrated in 1969-70.

“He told me that, as an African-American teacher at the time, sometimes he was tested,” Kelvin said. “He was tested with Q-and-A’s from the students. They wanted to see if he knew what he was talking about.”

Redd didn’t play basketball, but he coached basketball because he loved the game.

“He studied it,” Kelvin said.

No wonder one of his former players, Ken “Silk” Johnson, called Redd “a tactician” when describing his beloved high school coach.

“He understood the game,” said Johnson, a 1977 Central graduate who was a scholarship player for the University of Alabama, now teaching physical education at Ridgecrest Elementary School in Phenix City. “He taught great fundamentals. He hated to lose. He wanted to win at all times, but he coached with a winning attitude.”

The most significant lessons his father taught him, Kelvin said, were about integrity and “how to think critically and logically. That’s why, when his players made a mistake, he always pointed to his head. He wanted them to think, think for themselves, don’t rely on what somebody else says.”

As a science teacher, Redd clearly was “highly intelligent,” Johnson said, “but he taught in a very simple fashion, one-on-one at your desk. He had strips of paper to show you every step of the process, whether you were his player or in the band or a cheerleader or anybody else. He took the time to make sure you understood what he was getting across. He always stressed the importance of academics.”

Johnson called Redd “my coach, my mentor and my friend. He prepared me both academically and athletically. He taught me about having great character.”

Redd’s death is “a tremendous loss,” Johnson said. “But I am thankful for the time we had with him.”

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.