Mr. Taft M. Watson was born on December 23, 1921 in Green Sea, South Carolina to Maebelle Watson and Theodore Crosland. He was known by many as Deacon Watson, Coach and “Cool” to his grandchildren.
Mr. Watson made his transition on March 15, 2018 having been blessed to have lived 96 years.
He attended the public schools of Horry and Marion County, South Carolina. Upon graduation, he attended Benedict College. He later enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in 1943. After serving two years, he returned to Benedict College and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education.
In 1946, he married his high school sweetheart, Lucrissie Barnes and to this union four children were born: Taft, Jr., James, Jr. and infant Carolyn Watson (all preceded him in death) and Marilyn Watson Hunter.
Deacon Watson was a member of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church of Mullins, South Carolina. He was the chairman of the deacon board and the youth Sunday School Teacher. As a part of his ministry, he was committed to visiting the sick at home, hospitals and nursing homes. He delighted in giving each one a gift bag. He always gave encouraging and inspiring words to the patients and their family.
His favorite scripture was Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?
Deacon Watson was an outstanding leader in his community. His achievements included initiating the organization and fund drive for the Centenary Community Fire Department. He was a charter member of Marion-Dillon County Drug and Alcohol Commission, a member of the Mullins Bi-racial Committee, a member of the Mullins Planning Commission and the American Legion Post 226 of Lake View, South Carolina and received his 50 year pen in 2016.
Coach Watson taught at Loris and Shilot, North Carolina. He taught and coached at Columbus High School in Lake View, South Carolina. In 1950 in gained a position with Marion County School District Three at Rains Centenary and Terrell’s Bay High Schools. He remained faithful to his career as a coach and educator at these institutions for many years. While employed in this district, Coach Watson served as a physical education teacher, as assistant principal, driver’s education teacher, bus supervisor and in any other role that would benefit the students of his school. Coach Watson mad and indelible impact on each and every student that walked the halls of Terrell’s Bay and Rains Centenary Schools.
His coaching style was like no other. A person could catch Coach Watson standing with his arms folded or in his pockets while walking the sidelines during a basketball game. He coached both the boys and girls team for 47 years and 38 of those years were spent at Terrell’s Bay High School.
He is known as South Carolina’s Most Winningest Coach because of winning 1,481 games during his coaching career. He accomplished something that might not be duplicated in state’s history again…he led both his girls and boys basketball teams to state titles on the same day.
March 12, 1994 the school’s girls won the class A title over McBee, 43-40. He then guided his boys basketball team to win over Williston-Elko in which it rallied from a 15 point deficit. His granddaughter Lacrissie and grandson Taft Kevin played on these teams during this historic event.
Coach Watson won eleven state titles, eight state girls and three boys and thirty-five conference titles. He was inducted to the SC Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, South Carolina, Athletics Administrators Association Hall of Fame, South Carolina, Athletic Hall of Fame, the National Federation of High School Hall of Fame and the Benedict College hall of Fame.
His honors and awards included a street being named Taft Watson Boulevard (leading to Terrell’s Bay High School) and a gymnasium at Terrell’s Bay being named Taft Watson Gym. He has been featured in the State Newspaper, the Greenville News, the Florence Morning News, the Star Enterprise and the Sports Illustrated Magazine.
Watson’s story was made into a book “More than a Coach” and later into a movie, shown locally last year.
Coach Watson’s achievements proved that it is not the size of the school or the population of a community that determines success. It is instead, the willingness of leaders to teach and those who learn to apply those skills not only to the gratification of winning a basketball game but also to their goals in life.
South Carolina’s winningest coach has touched the lives of many young people and inspired them to be the best in whatever they attempt to do.
Coach Taft Watson departed this life on Thursday, March 15, 2018. He leaves to cherish so many memories one daughter, Marilyn Hunter of Columbia, SC, James (Corinthia) Casey of Irvington, NJ, six grandsons: Joe Hunter, James (Rayshannette) Watson, Jr., Taft Kevin Watson, Brad Hunter, Jarod Hunter and Gregory (Jennifer) Ellerbe; one granddaughter: Lacrissie Watson; thirteen great grandchildren; daughter-in-law: Pastor Mildred Sanders (James) Watson; one granddaughter-in-law: Mrs. Reno (Joe) Hunter and a host of nieces, nephews, family and friends.