Shedericka Edwards felt her father’s tension whenever Laney played its main rival in football.
Though Edwards’ parents each taught at Laney, she graduated from Josey in 1970. A band member in high school, Edwards knew to be careful around her father, David Dupree, when game week rolled around. If there’s one thing the legendary coach lived for, it was beating his school’s main rival.
“We were walking on glass for a whole week, but I would grin at him at the table,” said Edwards, who saw Josey defeat Laney just once in her time in high school. Dupree went 18-2 against the Eagles.
“It wasn’t a good week in my house.”
Wednesday wasn’t a good day in Augusta. Dupree, who led Laney to a pair of state championships in football and also was a successful track coach, died in the early morning hours. He was 88.
Edwards said her father went to University Hospital on Monday – his birthday – before ultimately dying at 2 a.m. Wednesday. Dupree had been on dialysis for a couple of years, but Edwards said his death was still unexpected.
Dupree became the Wildcats’ head football coach in 1958 and won state titles in the Georgia Interscholastic Association in 1961 and 1966. He remained head coach through the 1983 season and finished his career with a 209-60-13 record. In 1992, Dupree was the first black high school football coach elected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
“The biggest thing he wanted to leave was not just about sports but education. He was a big proponent of getting as educated as you possibly can,” Edwards said. “He was like an icon.”
“More than anything, he was just family oriented,” said Laney defensive coordinator David Griffin, the last starting quarterback to play for Dupree. “He treated everybody as a son. He was hard and tough, but you respected him for all the things he did. It was an honor to be a Wildcat. And it was special, knowing going into the year that it was going to be his last year.”
Dupree grew up in Clemson, S.C., and went on to become a football star at Johnson C. Smith. In 1949, he was hired by Laney. Nine years later, he succeeded John Tutt as head football coach.
In the first nine years of Dupree’s 26-year football coaching stint, Laney dominated the GIA. In 1966, the Wildcats went 12-0, their defense allowing an average of 4.6 points a game.
Even when the Wildcats joined the Georgia High School Association in 1967, Dupree kept winning. During his run, he recorded 21 winning seasons. One of his most monumental victories came Sept. 23, 1967, the first integrated game in Georgia.
“(The Aquinas) Coach (Tom McDevitt) came to me and said he needed some money so I said ‘OK, I’ll play you,’” Dupree said in 2000. “He told me not to run the score up on him and I told him I wouldn’t. We played the game and the stands were packed, because everybody was interested in how it was going to come out.”
Dupree coached Laney to a 30-0 win over the Irish. Though the atmosphere was intense for the Saturday night game, the two teams recorded few penalties and shook hands afterward.
Dupree led the Wildcats to four more wins over Aquinas, their series ending in 1975. But more impressively, Dupree dominated rival Josey, winning 18 of 20 contests.
In 2009, Laney honored Dupree during halftime of a home football game, unveiling the David Dupree Field at Lucy C. Laney Memorial Stadium. Dupree received a bronze plaque, a painting and a standing ovation.
“This is a fitting honor for a man who spent a lot of time and sweat on these athletic fields,” former Laney and New York Jets running back Emerson Boozer said at the time. Boozer was a member of the Wildcats’ 1961 state championship team and a member of the Jets’ Super Bowl III winning squad; he was one of eight former Dupree disciples to play professionally.
Dupree remained a fixture at Laney practices and games long after he retired. Burke County coach Eric Parker, who led the Wildcats from 1997-2006, said Dupree was a good person to have around the program.
“After a win, it was always, ‘Coach, you guys look good,’” Parker said. “Not only was he a good football coach, he was a big-time Laney supporter.”