Today, I would like to give credit to Coach Bob “Spook” Smith for the name of the school mascot, a bear. In fact, the Burley Bears became the envy of the Black community with their athletic prowess on the football field and basketball court. But why a Bear? The answer Is really quite simple. Coach Smith was a graduate of Morgan State University In Baltimore, Maryland. The Morgan State team mascot was also a Bear. Enough said. Coach Smith would use his influence to name the team mascot!
Under Smith’s outstanding leadership and example, the Burley Bears would develop a winning tradition in all athletic areas: football; basketball and baseball. Not only did Smith and Jones build winning teams and attitudes, but helped young boys, become outstanding young men in life.
My early exposure to the Burley sports juggenaut makes me recall such Burley High School football and basketball legends such as quarterbacks Richard Eubanks; Jimmy Douglas; and Richard “The Hawk” Monroe; running backs: Lester Washington and Herbert Churchman. Lineman such as Big Bob Ferguson. Wide receivers or Offensive ends: Raymond Bell and Harold Billups. On the basketball court we remember Alfred Martin; Philip Bell; Scott Lowe and Pete Shackelford to name a few players who come to mind.
An Unbelievable Year
No alumni of Burley High School will forget the year of 1956. That year marked the football teams first and last undefeated, untied and unscored on season! That same year I.C. Norcom –The Greyhounds– of Portsmouth achieved the same result. Instead of meeting in a tie-breaker for the state football championship, both teams shared the honor as co-champs.
Some 50 years later that is still a record in the state of Virginia.