The Charleston Chronicle

Iconic Coach Modie Risher Snubbed At Tournament Named In His Honor

  • Modie Risher with wife at the 2012 Modie Risher Classic. Photo:?Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

A damn shame and a disgrace is how Burke High School’s iconic former head basketball Coach Earl Brown characterized a recent insult to the school’s historic athletic figure, Modie Risher. The school’s administration and coordinators of the annual Christmas basketball tournament at Burke Dec. 26-28 failed to recognize Risher at the tournament named in his honor.

For 33 years as a football and baseball coach and as a creative dance instructor at Burke High Risher honed boys and girls into young men and women. Risher began at Burke in 1950 and retired in 1983. He shared his gifts outside the school’s campus as well and from 1961-1976 was a playground supervisor, special events director and assistant sports coordinator for the Charleston Playground Department.

This year marked the tournament’s 36th year of the tournament. In 2005 during the basketball tournament named in his honor, the new gymnasium at Burke High School also was named in honor of the former coach and athletic director.

Each year Risher, now totally blind, has been recognized and presented trophies to the winning team and outstanding players during a ceremony on the final night of the three-night event. This year, as he awaited the presentation with family members who annually attend the event to support him, that didn’t happen.

“He was sitting in the gym with his family waiting to make the presentation and asked when the presentation would be made. They had to tell him it already had happened. It was a shame for something like that to happen,” Brown said last week.

In past years the school’s athletic booster club coordinated and managed the tournament. This year those chores were taken over by the athletic department and its new director.

Herman ‘Sarge’ Allen, president of the booster club called the snub an unintentional act born of ignorance. The tournament’s rookie coordinators don’t know the school’s history or Risher’s significant role in that history, he said. They made changes to the program without consulting former coordinators.

Brown thinks its difficult for anybody who’s spent any time working at the school to be unaware of Risher’s role in its athletic program, especially the principal and new athletic director. Risher is present at practically every home football and basketball game, he noted.

“For him to not even be mentioned during the three nights of the tournament is blatant disrespect. He’s due an apology from somebody,” Brown said.

Allen said new staff members at the school simply don’t know about the school’s history or those who created it. Regarding the pictures of noted coaches of the past who included Joseph A. Moore John Wilford and Risher which this year have been removed from the gymnasium’s wall of honor Allen said, “To them those are just some pictures on the wall.”

Friends of Burke co-founder Arthur Lawrence said he is disappointed to know that the man for whom the tournament and gym are named was not recognized.

“I understand when you don’t know your history and don’t take the time to find out, you make hasty decisions. They need to do their homework. They’re using his name to make money and don’t even recognize him? Someone needs to apologize to ‘Fess’ and his family,” Lawrence added.
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