Testament To A Trailblazer

Varsity Letters

Field To Honor Balto. Co.'s First Black Football Coach

August 29, 2009|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Before Parkville's football team kicks off its first home game, the Knights will rename their field in honor of Joseph Anthony Yates Sr., Baltimore County's first African-American football coach.

The dedication of Yates Field will take place Sept. 12 at 12:30 p.m. before Parkville's game against Lansdowne. Yates, who died in 2006 at the age of 83, coached the Knights from 1971 to 1981.

Yates' legacy is not about coaching but character, said Ron Belinko, coordinator of athletics for Baltimore County, who coached football at Overlea at the time.

"The significance of Joe Yates in the community is the impact that he made on an almost totally white school," Belinko said. "Color was overlooked when it came to Joe Yates. They looked and saw the character of the man and what he was teaching young people and how they responded to him."

Yates came to Baltimore County in 1952 to teach at the Banneker School in Catonsville. He also taught at Sollers Point Junior-Senior High and at Catonsville High before moving to Parkville High.

"That was at a time when he was one of maybe two African-Americans in the whole building," Belinko said. "In the early '70s, when Joe coached and the respect that he got from the Parkville community, you have to understand the demographics at the time." Belinko said Yates did not have great success as a football coach at Parkville, but that the honor of having the field named for him shows that his impact transcended football.

"At Parkville, they never had an outstanding record," Belinko said. "It wasn't that he was Coach of the Year, it wasn't that he won championships; it's the fact that this stadium is being named after him for the character that he showed and for the role model he was for young people that he taught and coached. That's a tremendous testament. That community and the graduates who still live in that community had that much respect for the man."

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