Ulysses Culley and Dee Harris - White County sports heroes

Remembering two men who had an impact on the lives of Sparta youth

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 Rare it is that a community loses two icons in the same week.  Coach Dee Harris and Mr. Ulysses Culley Sr. both went to their final resting place approximately two weeks ago.

 Both men had a very positive impact on not only myself personally but on many in this community.  It was a rare thing to hear anyone call them by their first names.  Most called Dee Harris “Coach” and addressed Mr. Culley as “Culley.”  Coach and Culley will be missed not only by family but the entire community will mourn and miss these two great men. 

As I sat and pondered the legacy each has left for this community, several characteristics come to mind that “Coach and Culley”  exemplified during their lifetimes.  Both men knew the people they were around.  Coach Harris knew his players and their families.  He had a vested interest in their well-being and always had the players best interests in mind while they were playing for the Warriors under his leadership.  Coach continued his support of the Warriors in his later years after retirement.  It was very common to see Coach sitting at the end of the practice field and at the games watching the Warriors.

Mr. Culley seemed to know everyone in the community, and everyone knew him.  He knew all the players on the Little League teams, the basketball teams, the high school teams, and he knew their parents.  I became friends with Mr. Culley’s son, Tobby, through school sports.  Tobby and I were in the same grade and played middle school and high school football and baseball together.  I cannot ever remember a time when Mr. Culley was not leaning on the fence at the practice field or the fence in left field at the Little League park, or standing around the fence at the high school football stadium or sitting in the top corner bleachers of the gym at the high school.

Mr. Culley stayed involved in all of the community sports.  He gave much of his life on the field as a coach and an umpire.  I can still hear him telling me what I needed to improve on as I caught behind the plate in Babe Ruth baseball.  Mr. Culley wanted the best of all the players and always encouraged them to be the best they could be.   

Both Coach and Culley were active in the support of each and every player.  I remember one instance I was near Mr. Culley at the Little League field, and someone asked him, “Culley, who are you here to root for today? Your kid’s not even out there playing.”  Mr. Culley’s reply was epic and still rings true today. He stated, “They are all my kids.”  I never forgot that statement as he cheered on every player from every team and even coached every child like they were his own. 

Both men were examples of commitment to a community.  They supported every fundraiser, get-together, and city or county function that took place.  But even better was the commitment to the people of this community.  They both loved this community, and they loved the people they came in contact with.  I personally have never heard an unkind word spoken of these two men, and that says much about their character. 

I had the opportunity of being a part of both men’s birthday celebrations and had the great experience of being able to report on the celebrations and take photos for the family.  The memories of seeing all the friends and family as they celebrated these two men in their lives was a true blessing.  It is one honor that I will always hold dear in my heart. 

Coach Harris and Mr. Culley, two men whom I loved, will be truly missed by this community.  Sports attendance will not be the same without these men there standing or sitting in the bleachers cheering on each and every player.  It was an honor to look through the face mask and call him “Coach” and be called one of his players.  And what an honor and encouragement it was to be called by Mr. Culley, “One of his kids.” 

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