Coach Tommy Thompson and the Boys of Sequoyah
A joint biography of both a famed advisor, coach and surrogate father, and nineteen of his students, spans the lifetime of Coach Thompson from 1904 to 1958. All shared a boarding school, which for Tommy Thompson was a government-run orphanage that was a place of last resort for devastated families who could no longer support their children. He returned in mid life to a vocational school named in honor of the creator of the Cherokee alphabet. At Sequoyah, Coach Thompson was known by a generation of students as Ah-sky-uh – “the man,” a term of deep respect.
Faced with a cold, neglectful father and harsh school regimen, Thompson heeded the advice of an aunt to “make the best of things” all his life. Once freed of his first school’s confines, he went on to gridiron fame at Northeastern State College, where he met wife Dorothy and they began a life dedicated to helping others. After a series of government jobs in Indian communities, he landed back at Sequoyah, where his story begins to intertwine with several of the thousand young men who came under his care. Through football, he taught skills and values he had learned, and became a treasured teacher despite battles with his own alcoholism. Through the Great Depression, and World War II and Korean War’s tragedies to Christmas celebrations and the antics of Boots, the dog, the community thrives.
Created with firsthand accounts of his family and students, Patti Dickinson has re-created, a half century after his death, a vibrant story of a remarkable man, whose deeds reverberate through all the lives of people he touched.