The bonds made between classmates, teachers, players and coaches are invaluable in the halls of Southwest DeKalb High School (SWD). As they continue to support each other and “bleed blue and old gold,” the Panthers are certain to keep their traditions growing strong.
As a finale to their homecoming weekend, SWD held its second annual Breakfast of Champions, honoring Hall of Fame Coach William ‘Buck’ Godfrey and former band director, Don Roberts on Oct. 11.
The fundraiser was the vision of Head Coach and Athletic Director, Kathy Richie Walton to show recognition for students and athletes of the high school.
Jackie Alexander, parent volunteer, said, “It’s important for the younger kids who are still here and the athletes to just see that these [alumni and guest speakers] started here.”
This year’s ceremony brought more than 150 alumni, parents and students together to reminisce and share memories in the school’s cafeteria.
Roberts, the first keynote speaker, was introduced and awarded for his numerous accomplishments in the county, his efforts aided the DeKalb school system’s rank on the “Top 100 Communities in Music Education in America” in 2005 and 2008.
He recalled one of his first games at SWD against Valdosta High School. “Even in losing it was victorious because I found out the Southwest DeKalb tradition was so strong that it would not accept defeat.”
“I knew right then that I was in a special place,” said Roberts.
Roberts also has worked as an executive band consultant for the Twentieth Century Fox movie Drumline, was appointed associate producer for the ESPNU television series The Battle and led the SWD band in the 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Under the guidance of Roberts more than 15,000 students participated in band and orchestra in DeKalb schools.
Roberts and his fellow chairmen helped supervise approximately 100 instrumental music directors, 19 high schools, 19 middle schools and 88 elementary schools.
The second keynote speaker Buck Godfrey is another key player in the history of SWD.
After 30 seasons as head football coach at SWD, his record of 273-89-1—including a state championship, state runner-up title and 13 regional titles—makes him the winningest football coach in DeKalb County history.
Upon moving to Atlanta from South Carolina to obtain his master’s degree in English from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta), Godfrey began coaching baseball at Gordon High School. Under his tenure that team won 25 games and advanced to the playoffs.
In 1976, a time when Georgia schools began to integrate, Godfrey moved to Towers High School as the football team’s offensive coordinator and the school’s first Black male teacher.
However, it was at Southwest DeKalb High School where Godfrey found a home.
In 1983 he joined the SWD panther family and became the school’s first Black head football coach.
“This school, Southwest Dekalb, is a big oak tree. It’s root goes deep, maybe 60 miles down. It’s built on family. It’s built on teamwork. It’s built on guts. It’s built on unselfishness. It’s built on love. It’s built on character. It’s built on integrity,” said Godfrey.
He prides himself on being a leader for his community.
“My daddy loved Joe Lewis. He loved Sugar Ray Robinson. He loved Jackie Robinson. Those guys when they played or when they fought, they represented the Black community. It wasn’t about them,” said Godfrey.
He added, “When I came to Southwest I represented my family in South Carolina and I represented the Black race.”
“I wanted to be the best Black coach possible and represent my boys in the most positive way that I could.”
Many of Godfrey’s former players echoed similar sentiments, “He was an example of a proud Black man,” said Steven Davenport, a junior wide receiver on Godfrey’s first team in 1983.
“He came in and really gave us a beacon of what it really meant to be Black men.”
In addition to being a coach and mentor, Godfrey is a published author of three books: Moods of a Black Man, Songs for My Father, and The Team Nobody Would Play, a memoir about playing little league in the Jim Crow South.
In planning for next year the Panthers are hoping to bring more legendary alumni, parents, volunteers and local supporters to the school.