Chambless ‘utterly stunned’ by honor

Roger Burton presents the “Citizen of the Year” Award to Chris Chambless.
Steve Rogers
Staff Writer

Chris Chambless knew something was up when his assistant coach, Roger Burton, walked from the back of the crowd. And once Burton started, he was swept over by what he called “utter shock, utter surprise.”

Chambless, the head football coach at West Point High since 2006, is a man of few words most of the time. Tuesday night, he was left almost speechless as Burton and the rest of the West Point Clay County Growth Alliance honored him with the “Citizen of the Year” Award at the Alliance’s 93rd annual banquet.

“I had no idea, I don’t even know what to say,” Chambless said of the surprise.

“This really goes to so many people, so many players, to the community,” he said afterwards. “I am humbled.”

Chambless and his wife, Elisha, attended to honor Caroline Harrell, and her late husband, Robert, who were inducted into the West Point Clay County Hall of Fame along with veteran educator and community advocate Naomi Kilgore. The Harrells, especially, have been long-time supporters of Green Wave football and Caroline, along with a number of others, spearheaded an effort last year to chronicle its history in a successful picture book.

But that hook to get his attendance also was a cover for his award. His three children and parents spent much of the night hiding at a back table out of his sight, ducking occasionally if it appeared he might turn around and look toward the back of the room.

Burton played for Chambless before becoming an assistant.

He described Chambless, who has led the Green Wave to five state titles, including back-to-back crowns in 2009 and 2010 and three straight the last three years, as “a humble, silent worker who never wants the praise that comes his way and always is quick to give credit to others and the people who work with him.”

Praising Chambless for his charitable spirit, Burton also cherished his friendship.

“I personally am grateful for all he has taught me and I think of him as a friend and a brother and value our relationship,” Burton said.

“Mostly though he understands the passion of West Point … and the pride our city has in our football team. He always relates and informs the players they are not only representing West Point teams currently but also those who have come before them and laid the foundation of success,” Burton continued.

In addition to Citizen of the Year, the annual event serves as a showcase for the annual Hall of Fame inductions.

Started in 1984, the three this year bring to 97 the number of people in the Hall. The induction of the Harrells together marked the second time a husband and wife have been inducted at the same time.

In 2001, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Snow were inducted. The Harrells became the fourth husband and wife pair in the Hall. Her parents are one of the other couple and her late sister and her husband, Kitty and former Mayor Kenny Dill, are the others in addition to the Snows.

Kilgore and Caroline Harrell each paid tribute to their families and friends who supported them and motivated them. And Harrell closed out by having one of her grandsons, J.B. Harrell, read her late husband’s favorite poem, “The Bridge Builder,” by Will Allen Dromgoole, as an inspiration to the crowd.