ALEXANDRIA, Va. (ABC7) — Plans are now in place to help Alexandria remember a Titan. Herman Boone died on Wednesday, 48 years after he coached T.C. Williams to a state football championship. At the time, President Richard Nixon said the team saved the city of Alexandria. And decades later, many in the community still feel the same way.
"I think that Coach Boone, I would say he's one of the pioneers that helped us overcome segregation," said Dr. Gregory Hutchings, who is the Superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools. "I think that his legacy will live on, because if it weren't for that championship team, I mean where would we be today?"
Herman Boone, football coach played by Denzel Washington in 'Remember the Titans,' dies at 84
People all over the world have heard Boone's story, due in large part to the Disney film, 'Remember the Titans'. The film is based on the Titans' 1971 season, during which Boone is credited with bringing the Alexandria community together when he led T.C. William's newly integrated football team to the state title and brought home an incredible win. Denzel Washington played the role of Coach Boone in the film.
"It made such a difference for T.C. Williams High School at a time when we needed to have unity, bringing two different words under one roof," said Hutchings. "His legacy is just amazing. So we were very proud and grateful that Disney wanted to make a movie about our wonderful Herman Boone."
Hutchings, who took the ACPS superintendent job in July of 2018, is also a T.C. Williams graduate.
"I'm a graduate of Alexandria City Public Schools, I graduated from T.C. Williams in the class of 1995. And it's wonderful to be able to come back home to a place that made me the person I am today," he said.
In fact, he says Coach Boone was his driver's education teacher in high school.
"So I learned to drive from Coach Boone, which I think is so cool," he said. "Mr Boone, his presence always required respect."
When Alexandria City Public Schools learned that Boone had passed away this week at the age of 84, Hutchings and his staff knew right away that Boone's final farewell would draw a massive crowd.
"When I heard about Coach Boone yesterday, I was sad, I felt really bad for his two daughters. My heart went out to them - I actually got to speak to one of them today," said Hutchings. "And then, just figuring out how do we honor Coach Boone? And instantly in my mind I knew we needed to have something here in this building. And I know we're going to have the memorial service here at T.C. Williams on his behalf."
On Thursday, ACPS worked closely with the Boone family to finalize plans for that memorial service. Details were released Thursday afternoon, and Hutchings said he hopes it will be a celebration of Boone's life.
There will be a public viewing at the Lee Center (1108 Jefferson Street) on December 27 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public is also invited to pay their respects during a family viewing from 10 a.m. to noon on December 28, at Oakland Baptist Church (3408 King Street). After that, a memorial service for Boone will be held at T.C. Williams High School (3330 King Street) at 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 28.
"This is the place we really need to be able to honor him. I think this is the best sendoff for someone who has given of himself to so many people. That's the least we can do, to honor the man that he was and what he stood for, and the wonderful contributions he's made to Alexandria City Public Schools and the world," said Hutchings.
Those wanting to support causes that were close to Boone's heart can make donations in his name to: The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, 3330 King Street, Alexandria - attn: 71 Titans Scholarship.
Hutchings pointed out that ACPS currently has 119 countries represented among its students and staff. That's something he believes wouldn't have been possible without Coach Boone's efforts to bring people together during a time of extreme turmoil and division all those years ago.
"We do pride ourselves on diversity. And I believe Coach Boone and the contributions he made with the championship in 1971 was only the beginning of the legacy he has," said Hutchings. "And I hope our next generation of leaders, including myself, will remember the people who stood tall for us, who made the difference. And we will now step into their shoes. And they're big shoes to fill, but I know this next generation, they are a powerful group who are going to do some amazing things in this world. I'm looking forward to the next Herman Boone, whoever that person may be."