Franklin's renovated stadium honors `Doc' for his dedication

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

November 09, 2007

Jean McWilliams has no doubt that her husband, Clarence, would get a big kick out of having the newly refurbished stadium complex at Franklin named for him, especially since he helped cut the grass on the field more than once.

"I think he'd be thrilled and honored and surprised," Jean McWilliams said this week from her home in Fenwick Island, Del. "I was surprised [by the honor], but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense."

While today's students at the Reisterstown school may have no idea why the football field, press box, stands and lights in the stadium facility will carry the name of a man they likely never heard of, three generations of Franklin athletes are indebted in some way to the kindly country doctor who took a school under his wing and made it his own.

Before tonight's game with Dulaney, Jean McWilliams, her eight children and a number of her 22 grandchildren, as well as Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith and school Superintendent Joe Hairston are expected to pay tribute to the life and contributions of a man many called "Doc."

For more than 35 years, Clarence McWilliams faithfully treated and cared for patients from the sunporch of his home and from their homes during house calls. His prices were modest, from $2 for a visit to his office to $4 for a house call. And given the rural nature of the area at the time, Doc was just as likely to accept produce and meat for payment as cash.

However, McWilliams, whose home was across the road from Franklin where a gas station currently sits, was particularly fond of the school's athletes, watching their practices in between his medical duties.

"He felt close to them," said Jean McWilliams, 82, herself one of five generations of her family to attend Franklin. "He knew the teachers and the whole gang in there. He liked them. He was a people person."

He became the school's official team doctor, offering physicals before their seasons and treating their injuries during the season for more than 20 years. And McWilliams never charged a dime to any of the kids.

"We would call and say, `Dr. McWilliams, we have a young man or a young lady that's injured.' He would say, `Bring them right over,' " said Jill Myers, who recently retired as Franklin's athletic director.

McWilliams, a former president of the Baltimore County Medical Association and a member of a committee that established guidelines for football when it began to be played in county schools in the 1960s, felt so strongly about the welfare of kids that he strongly advocated that each school should have a doctor for athletic events.

After he retired from medicine in 1988, McWilliams wanted to remain active at Franklin, so he took his lawnmower across the street and cut the grass on the athletic fields.

"He always said if we were still in town after he retired, he could volunteer and go up there and cut the grass," said Jean McWilliams, his wife of 60 years. "I said, `Don't worry about that. You've got enough grass back here.' "

His efforts were noted by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, which presented him with its Distinguished Service Award, given to people outside the school systems who make important contributions to interscholastic athletics in the state. The award was presented in August 2005, five months after McWilliams died in Florida of complications from kidney disease at the age of 82.

The McWilliams family contributed more than $20,000 to fund the stadium project, which lasted more than 10 years. But tonight's ceremony is hardly the example of the family of a rich benefactor trying to buy their way into history, nor is it, thankfully, a major corporation attempting to earn community goodwill.

Indeed, Myers, who spent 39 years as a teacher and coach at the school and 21 years as athletic director, was considered a leading candidate to have her name attached to the stadium.

As it is, the concessions stand has been dubbed "Jill's Grill," in Myers' honor, and she fully endorses naming the facility Clarence E. McWilliams Stadium, as the right thing to do.

"He was just a wonderful man and helped out for so many years," Myers said. "He did it from the kindness of his heart and because I think he loved Franklin High School."

Finally, an apology is in order to Poly and its football program. In Tuesday's column, I said the Engineers were poised to make their first state playoff appearance since 1998, when, in fact, Poly was in the playoffs in 2004.

milton.kent@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.