No. 1 Fan Leroy Mitchell passes

Published 12:06 pm Saturday, September 5, 2009

Leroy “Red” Mitchell, acclaimed last October as the Demopolis Tigers’ No. 1 Fan, passed away last Sunday.

An inspirational and influential figure on the DHS sideline, Mitchell began attending Demopolis home games in 1970 when Demopolis schools became integrated and his alma mater, U.S. Jones High School, became a city elementary school.

He served as the team’s sideline videographer for more than 30 years, but more than that, he served as a valued assistant for every football head coach the Tigers had. If there were a position for morale coach, without a doubt, Mitchell would have been asked to fill that spot.

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“One of the main things that I remember about Red is that he was an encourager,” said Marengo County circuit court clerk Rusty Nichols, who was the Tigers’ head coach from 1989 to 1991. “We had some tough times at Demopolis High School, and Red was always there. He was always on the sidelines. He was always an encourager not only to me — which I needed during that time — but he was an encourager to these football players. He picked them up, and he helped us all at a time when we needed it.

“When you have somebody like Red Mitchell standing on the sidelines – when things are going bad, and you look around and he’s still smiling, he still walks up to you and shakes your hand after you’ve just gotten your brains beat out — there is no way to put a price on somebody like that.

“Red wasn’t there with me and the football staff for money,” he said. “He was there because he wanted to help, because he could do something for that football team, and he did. I’ll never forget him.”

Nichols said that Mitchell contributed not just to team morale, but perhaps to school morale over the years as well.

“Looking back, Red Mitchell was a tremendous link or bridge between the white community and the black community,” Nichols said. “That’s part of what he did. He made things mix better. He brought people together. He loved people.”

“He was always there,” said Doug Goodwin, who coached at Demopolis from 1999 to 2007 and is the current head coach at Russellville. “I knew I could count on him for the season. He was just a good supporter, win or lose. I have nothing but good things to say about him.”

“When I first came to Demopolis in ’74, he was a great supporter,” said Fred Schoenrock, who was the DHS head coach from 1974 to 1989. “He did a lot for us with security in the away games. I thought highly of him.”

Mitchell, 67, attended more than 300 consecutive Demopolis football games. When he was named the Tigers’ No. 1 Fan on Oct. 17, 2008, he said he didn’t realize he would spend so much time with the team when he started.

“I enjoy being on the sidelines, and I think the kids enjoy me being on the sidelines,” he said that night. “I just really appreciate the award and everything everybody did for me.”