Hello and welcome to our second consecutive two-for-one special at the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog! (This will probably be the last double post for a while; I don’t want you to get spoiled.) Last time, we explored the religious affiliations of country singers Don Williams and Troy Gentry. Today, we travel to the wide world of sports as we talk about two famous University of Alabama coaches: former football coach Gene Stallings and former basketball coach Winfrey “Wimp” Sanderson.
Stallings is probably best known for leading the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship and for being one of Bear Bryant’s “Junction Boys” during his time at Texas A&M. Sanderson, for his part, led the Tide to ten total NCAA tournament berths, including six “Sweet 16” appearances–and he did so while wearing a plaid jacket, no less. The two coaches’ tenures overlapped for a brief period in the early 1990s, at the beginning of Stallings’s stay and the end of Sanderson’s.
Both men appear often on lists of supposed “Church of Christ celebrities.” Let’s see what the sources tell us!
(“Wimp Sanderson, 1992” by Charles Bertram, Kentucky Photo Archive, http://www.kyphotoarchive.com/2015/01/31/wimp-sanderson-1992/)
That Stallings is a Christian is no great secret. For instance, in Another Season: A Coach’s Story of Raising an Exceptional Son, Stallings frequently refers to the support he and his family, including son John Mark, received throughout the years from the churches they attended in Tuscaloosa, Dallas, and St. Louis. (1)
Helping us out considerably, there is also quite a bit of direct evidence that Stallings is affiliated with Churches of Christ. For example, the Gadsden Times reported back in 2016 that Stallings was scheduled to speak during the morning worship service at an event at the Rainbow Church of Christ. (2) The real clincher, though, is found in a 2010 article in the Christian Chronicle which discusses Faulkner University’s decision to name its football field after John Mark Stallings: “‘This is such a wonderful, unbelievable day for Ruth Ann and me — to have a football field named after little Johnny,’ said Stallings, a Church of Christ member and former coach for the University of Alabama, Texas A&M and the NFL’s Cardinals.” (3)
Moving on, Wimp Sanderson’s book, appropriately titled Plaid and Parquet, provides a couple of details regarding the coach’s spiritual life. Early on, Sanderson mentions that he spent a semester at Abilene Christian University, which is affiliated with Churches of Christ. A few pages later, he adds that he and his wife Annette wed at the Jackson Heights Church of Christ in Florence, Alabama. (4)
Going beyond Plaid and Parquet, a couple of additional pieces of information help strengthen our case. First, Sanderson’s son Jim was also a basketball coach, and he led the team at Faulkner University (affiliated with Churches of Christ) for twenty-four seasons. (5) Finally, the website for the Gulf Shores Church of Christ has a page which lists contact information for COCers who have condos available for rent in the area; Wimp and Annette Sanderson are included on that list as of the time of writing. (6)
Thanks for reading; as always, feel free to let me know what you think and to share with your friends, relatives, and mortal enemies. Get ready to institute some law and order around here at the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog next time!
(1) Gene Stallings and Sally Cook, Another Season: A Coach’s Story of Raising an Exceptional Son. New York: Broadway Books, 1997, 33-34, 171, 211.
(2) Donna Thornton, “Rainbow Church of Christ plans outreach; former Tide coach Stallings to speak July 24,” The Gadsden Times, July 15, 2016, accessed September 21, 2017, http://www.gadsdentimes.com/news/20160715/rainbow-church-of-christ-plans-outreach-former-tide-coach-stallings-to-speak-july-24 .
(3) “Faulkner dedicates football field to Gene Stallings’ son,” The Christian Chronicle, December 2010, accessed September 21, 2017, http://christianchronicle.webdextero.us/article/faulkner-dedicates-football-field-to-gene-stallings-son .
(4) Wimp Sanderson, Plaid and Parquet: An Autobiography. Sterrett, AL: Five Points South Productions, 2000, 23, 26.
(5) Jeremy D. Smith, “Sanderson legacy cannot be quantified with numbers,” West Alabama Watchman, September 4, 2014, accessed September 21, 2017, http://www.westalabamawatchman.com/sanderson-legacy-cannot-be-quantified-with-numbers/ .
(6) Gulf Shores church of Christ, “Condos for Rent,” accessed September 21, 2017, http://www.gulfshoreschurchofchrist.org/dnn/GSCOCAboutUs/CondosForRent.aspx .