The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

Breaking News


December 10, 2012

The story of ‘Fighting Joe’ Hamrick

player under coach Henry frnka left lasting legacy of his own

GREENVILLE — From state championship to national championship

When asked to rank Greenville High School football teams, coach Henry Frnka’s 1933 state championship team inevitably tops the list.

Frnka instilled in his players a desire not only to perform well on the field, but in life as well. One of those players was captain and guard of that famed championship team, and went on to be an award winning coach like his mentor, join the armed services during World War II and become an ordained minister. His name was Joseph Leonard Hamrick Sr.

Hamrick played guard for the high school team from 1931 to 33, and attended Northeast Oklahoma Junior College after graduation. He was elected captain of the Jr. College football team the following year, but he instead elected to accept a scholarship to play for Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. in 1936.

Hamrick was a blocking back for the team and was given the official nickname “Fighting Joe” when they claimed the national championship in 1936.

The legend of the last Woodchuck

The Hunt County native was now looking for work, so he went with his sister and her husband to a pastor in Fort Worth who was well known for predicting the future. If people had a question, they were asked to attach a quarter to a piece of paper and write their question down.

“I see a man with horned-rim glasses, smoking a cigar and offering you a job,” the pastor told Hamrick. “And I see you pouring over figures.”

Hamrick went to his home in Winnsboro where he received a knock on his door one afternoon. He opened to find the superintendent of Winnsboro ISD standing on the porch, wearing his horned-rim glasses, smoking a cigar and offering him the coaching job for the Winnsboro High School football team and also be a part-time math teacher.

Hamrick coached the team to a winning season in 1940, and was well known and beloved throughout the small town.

Things changed in 1941, when he felt a need to join the Texas Army National Guard in May of 1941, just seven months before the Pearl Harbor attack.

Hamrick knew his team would be distraught, so during the Oct. 17, 1941, game against Mount Vernon, he made a surprise visit to the newly named Red Raiders team, which was trailing at the half.

As the players were waiting for the second half to begin, a large figure dressed in an Army uniform walked up and silently shook each of the players hands before leaving. Looking back as he walked away, he said in a soft voice, “Fellows, you can do it.”

The final score of that game: Winnsboro 20, Mount Vernon 14.

Love at first sight

Hamrick was called up and stationed in Oregon to guard the West Coast from possible infiltration by the Japanese.

While he was stationed there, he attended a party thrown by a lady who empathised with the soldiers who were far away from home. On walking up to the door, he saw a young woman pinning names on men as they came in.

“You see that woman there,” he said to his fellow officer beside him. “I’m going to marry her.”

Hamrick spent the evening playing Ping-Pong and getting to know his new friend, the future Mrs. Audrey Hamrick. They began dating soon after, were engaged after three weeks and married after three months.

Three Valley ‘Coaches of the Year’ are selected

After the war, Hamrick took his wife and two children, Joe Jr., 4, and Jeneane, 2, to the Texas Valley where he was head coach of the Donna Redskins high school football team.

During his five-year stint as head coach, Hamrick led his team to several district titles, and was named coach of the year in the late 40’s. Hamrick added to Trinity staff

Hamrick was asked to be assistant coach of Trinity University in 1952 by his Greenville teammate W. A. McElreath. Hamrick coached there for one year before leaving to be the head coach of the Harlingen, Texas high school football team, where he would stay as head coach until his oldest son, Joe Jr., graduated high school in 1961.

In his years as head coach, Hamrick was named ‘Coach of the Decade’ in the Texas Valley.

Pastoral credentials

On July 23, 1961, Hamrick became an ordained minister and lived in Sulphur Springs for eight years before moving back to his birthplace in Winnsboro in 1971, where he led the preaching at Hopewell Primitive Baptist Church. His favorite hymn, “O for a Closer Walk with God,” is still sung in remembrance of him within the small church doors today.

Hamrick preached for more than 20 years, before his heart began to fail.

A legend passes

On Dec. 21, 1987, the longest night of the year, Hamrick died at 74 years

of age.

Three months prior to his death, Hamrick lived to see what he said he was longing to see before he died.

On Aug. 15, 1987, Joseph Hamrick III, son of Joe Hamrick Jr., was born. I am that grandson.

Before his death, Hamrick, like his mentor Frnka, left a lasting imprint on the field and off, that is still felt to this day.

Text Only
  • Scott_Stegall.jpg Army veteran opens medical facility in Cooper

    When Physician Assistant Scott Stegall first relocated to the Cooper Community Health Center from his practice in Commerce, he knew setting up a family medical clinic in the small, rural community with limited resources would present a challenge.

    April 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vaderrobot.jpg Dallas champions, Robowranglers look forward

    Practicing with the best hones skills and keeps members of Greenville High School Robowranglers on point, according to Director of Robotics Adrienne Emerson.
    The Robowranglers are preparing their robot “Vader” for the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis on April 23-26.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • GMSVEX.jpg Gig-A-Bots win multiple trophies at nationals

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Merit.jpg This Lone Oak High School student has merit

     Gaston Luke Gilbert, a senior at Lone Oak High School, is the first student in the school’s history to be a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Colt1.jpg Reaching the people of Morocco for Christ

    Most students use their summer break to unwind and relax.
    Others see it as an opportunity to do something more.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Troy Dorsey.jpeg Dorsey, boxing greats to headline ‘Boxing With the Stars’

    On March 19, famous figures of the boxing world will all visit Texas A&M University-Commerce as part of the Boxing With the Stars event, a one-of-a-kind opportunity for A&M-Commerce students and local community members to meet and interact with some of the most important figures in boxing, both past, present and future.

    March 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 3-2-14_Brunch_feature_.jpg Providing a helping hand

    A mailbox decorated with Wisconsin license plates reading “Feases” makes it pretty clear who owns the quaint little one-story house on Kathy Lynn Place in Quinlan.

    March 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Do A Good Turn Daily

    March 10, 2014

  • Cokes Test 1.jpg Boxing greats to visit A&M-Commerce on March 19

    Curtis Cokes is a genuinely nice guy. Enter his gym in South Dallas, and he’ll greet you with a smile, a firm handshake, and one of his captivating stories, like the time he met Jackie Robinson during the Brooklyn Dodgers spring training camp in 1955.

    March 4, 2014 3 Photos

  • McCowan_Conrad_write_coloring_book.jpg Local coloring book salutes famous African-Americans

    Many of Hunt County’s historical African-Americans are celebrated in a coloring book published this month under the auspices of the Hunt County Historical Commission.

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads

Who should the Houston Texans take with the first pick of the 2014 National Football League draft?

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
Central Florida QB Blake Bortles
Auburn OT Greg Robinson
Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack
Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
     View Results
Must Read

See more photos and purchase prints here.

AP Video
US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents Obama Reassures Japan on China Raw: Car Crashes Into San Antonio Pool Time Magazine Announces Top Influencers List Raw: Angry Relatives Confront SKorea Officials Bigger Riders Means Bigger Horses Out West Yankees Pineda Ejected for Pine Tar Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide