Veteran Darlington coach to join Hall of Fame

Coach James E. “Weepy” Welch, legendary Darlington (St. John’s) High football coach, will be inducted into the High School Football Coaches’ Hall of Fame at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Crown Reef Resort, 2913 Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach.

Welch spent 29 years at St. John’s/Darlington (1944-72) going 180-116-10 (59 percent) and seven years at Kingstree (1938-43) going 28-7-3 (74 percent).

At his retirement in 1972, Welch was one of only three coaches in South Carolina to post 200 career victories in high school football. Welch reached this milestone the last game of the 1971 season, his 36th year as a head coach, when St. John’s defeated Hartsville 7-0. He retired from the gridiron the next season, 1972, leaving behind an enviable 208-123-13 record (61 percent).

Welch’s career highlights include the 1940 State Championship in football; 1941 Lower State Championship in baseball; 1951 State Championship in baseball; seven Pee Dee Conference Championships in football (1956-62); 1970 State Championship in golf.

He had three perfect seasons in football, going 10-0-0 in 1958 and 1960 and 11-0-0 in 1962.
He served as assistant football coach and head coach of the Shrine Bowl in 1944 and 1958 respectively. He served as the South’s head football coach of the North-South game in 1952 and 1966.

Due to his penchant for annually understating his team’s potential to the press, he was dubbed “Weepy” by The State newspaper’s Jake Penland and the name stuck throughout Welch’s career.

He was an inaugural member of S.C. High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1993 along with other coaching legends, Pinky Babb (Greenwood), Willie Varner (Woodruff) and John McKissick (Summerville), who Welch coached as a student at Kingstree.

A native of North Wales, Pa., and a member of two championship teams at State Teachers College, Welch was considered the best end on the field. Off of the gridiron and as a result of his fleet feet on the dance floor, he was referred to as “old jazz-foot” Welch.
He came South to coach at Kingstree straight out of college with a pennant on his 1937 Ford that proclaimed “Yankee go South.”

Welch coached more than 800 Darlington boys in football, baseball and golf over his 36 years at St. John’s. A contingent of players, family and friends from Darlington will be in attendance at his Hall of Fame induction.

Tickets are still available; $40 each or $300 for a table for eight and can be purchased by calling or e-mailing Mike Ware, S.C. Football Coaches’ Association, 803-276-6360; mware@scfootballcoaches.com; or by mail: Mike Ware, 1062 Griffin Road, Pomaria, SC 29126. Locally, contact Bryan Hobbs at 843-339-1189 or Charles Howard, 843-339-8732 for information.

Author: Rachel Howell

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