Pittsburg superintendent, former players pay tribute to Dickey Meeks

By SONYA ROBERTS-WOODS/Publisher

    While his time in Pittsburg as head coach only spanned two seasons of a remarkable 42-year career, Dickey Meeks’ legacy will undoubtedly be his impact on countless student-athletes, fellow colleagues and the many communities that welcomed him with open arms.

    A Celebration of Life memorial service will be held in Meeks’ honor Saturday, Aug. 8 at 2 p.m. at Mobberly Baptist Church which is located at 625 E Loop 281, Longview, TX 75605.  Born December 29, 1953, Meeks died Monday, August 3, 2020 at the age of 66. Visitation with the family will be held one hour prior from 1-2 p.m. Under the direction of Rader Funeral Home, the service will be streamed online for those concerned with social distancing.

   Growing up in Orange in southeast Texas, Meeks and his family lived in Nederland before moving to Rayville, Louisiana when he was 10. He graduated from Riverfield Academy as a standout multiple-sport, high school athlete coached in football by his father Joe Meeks. He then played football at Kilgore College and later transferred to and graduated from University of Louisiana at Monroe. There he honed his skills in preparation for a career as a high school coach.

   “After I graduated from college, I spent 12 years coaching in Louisiana, but I never forgot what football was like in Texas,” Meeks said in an exclusive interview with The Tri-County Press in 2013. “I knew I would someday come back here to coach.”

   Meeks got his chance to return to the Lone Star State in 1988 when he took an assistant head coaching job at Chapel Hill Tyler. The following year he found himself at the helm of the school’s athletic program. That same year, in 1989, he also found himself with his first state championship title.

   “Because it was my first year there, I really and truly didn’t realize just how big that was (winning a championship trophy),” Meeks said in 2013. “I mean, sure, I knew it was a huge honor, but it was years later before it really sank in the magnitude of that win.”

   That same year, in 1989, Meeks hired a young coach with Pittsburg roots as his defensive coordinator. That new hire decades ago is now Pittsburg ISD’s Superintendent, Terry Waldrep.

   “I was just getting started in my career when Coach Meeks hired me,” Waldrep said. “I learned so much from him. He was the type of coach who let his coaches coach. He would correct you if he needed to, but otherwise he left you alone to do what you were supposed to do; what he hired you to do.”

    Waldrep also recalls how Meeks interacted with students.

    “The kids really appreciated how he would help them with real-life situations,” Waldrep said. “He cared about the students he coached. On and off the field, he was there to do whatever it took to make them successful. His style, whether you were a coach or a student, was to just let you be who you were and to support you. I always admired that about him.”

    Waldrep later became Meeks’ successor at Chapel Hill Tyler when, in 1996, Meeks took the Pine Tree head coaching job.  The pair later worked together at Pine Tree. Meeks then made a move to Franklin County after the 1999 football season to coach the Mount Vernon Tigers.  Heading next to Henderson in 2006, Meeks led the team to gridiron gold four years later in 2010.  Ironically, that 28-21 title win came against his former team , Chapel Hill Tyler. Three years later, in 2013, Camp County came calling.

    Ending the Pittsburg Pirates’ three-year playoff drought, Meeks produced back-to-back postseason appearances in 2013 and 2014. Garrett Truitt first got to know Meeks as a young lad by way of other family members.

    “Coach Meeks and his family have always been friends of my family for as long as I can remember,” Truitt explained. “He coached with my uncle, Terry Waldrep, at Chapel Hill Tyler and Pine Tree back in the 80s and 90s so I had spent some brief time with Coach Meeks here and there as I grew up, but did not know him on a personal level.”

   “Fast forward going into the spring of my junior year at Pittsburg,” Truitt continued. “There were a lot of unknowns for our senior season in the fall of 2013 coming off of a 2-8 record the year prior. With many coaching changes around, I had heard Coach Meeks had his name in the hat for our head coaching job and thought to myself we need to make this happen. My grandpa used to always say wherever Dickey goes, he wins. He is a winner.”

      Truitt lost his grandfather January 10, 2013. Two days later Coach Meeks attended the funeral .In the midst of tragedy, Truitt also learned some good news.

    “That is when we found out that he (Coach Meeks) got the job—how fitting,” explained Truitt, who played quarterback for the Pirates. “From January to my graduation in June 2014, Coach Meeks and I spent a lot of time together. Our senior year, he led us back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and took us to the second round.”

   Following graduation, Truitt went on to play collegiate baseball after earning a scholarship to Southern Arkansas University. Today, he works for Texas Farm Bureau Insurance and lives in Arlington. He’s never forgotten Meeks’ impact on his life.

   “With everything we did on the field, I believe the things I remember most are what happened off the field,” Truitt explained. “Coach Meeks was a family-first guy and it showed daily. He had both his son and son-in-law on staff with us and as players we got to witness all of the numerous visits we would have from his grandchildren at practices and in the fieldhouse throughout the season.”

   But it’s what he learned off the field from Meeks that still sticks with him today.

   “Coach Meeks was always a joy to be around and was a very approachable person,” he said. “We talked quite often not just about football, but family and life in general which are the things I remember most about him. It was an honor to play, in a small role, in the long and very successful career he had. He impacted so many lives and it showed by the numerous texts I have received from my former teammates.”

   Jerral “Tray” Walker also donned a Pirate jersey under Meeks’ leadership.  A 2016 Pittsburg graduate, Walker is now a senior majoring in civil engineering at Prairie View A&M University.

    “Coach Meeks was one of my favorite coaches,” Walker said. “He never underestimated me no matter how big or how tall I was. He told me I was as big as my heart wanted me to be. He brought the lion out of me.”

   Ironically, it was Meeks’ own heart that eventually caused multiple health issues for him over the years. After two years at Pittsburg, Meeks retired in late 2014 due to complications   A year later, Meeks remarkably returned to coaching and to Mount Vernon. But in 2016, he said goodbye to the gridiron for good.

   “Despite everything he was going through, he was always very positive,” Waldrep said. “He didn’t talk much about his health issues and he certainly didn’t complain about them. He was a fighter. In fact, he’d always rather talk about football. Football made him happy. I think his legacy will be the fact that he coached for 42 years. That’s a grind and something you don’t see very often anymore. That’s a feat in itself.”

   While the East Texas High School Coaches Hall of Famer will forever be known for leading two area schools to their first-ever state football championships, Meeks’ lasting legacy will more likely be tied to the lives he touched rather than to the records he earned.  

    “He will be missed and remembered by so many people,” Garrett said. “I want to speak on behalf of all of my former Pirate teammates by saying, ‘thank you and rest in peace, Coach Meeks.”    

Preceded in death by his father, Joe Meeks, Dickey Meeks is survived by his wife of 46 years, Debbie; daughters and son-in-law Sonia and Jeramy Burleson and their children Molly(16), Ty(13), and Rae Ann(10); daughter and son-in-law Jessi and Matt Hill and their children Grayson(18) and Addi(10); son and daughter-in-law Ricky Joe and Laci Meeks and their children Blake(10), Beckett (7), Sloane(5), and Emmie Jo (1). He is also survived by his mother Laverne Meeks; his brother Ken Meeks and wife Zoe; sister Jolynn Meeks and husband John; and numerous nieces and nephews. Honorary pallbearers for the Aug. 8 service will be Grayson Hill, Ty Burleson, Blake Meeks, Beckett Meeks, and Sloane Meeks.