Few will argue that one of the finest men to coach an HISD varsity team was Coach Luther Malachi Booker at Yates High School. Coach Booker’s legacy continued Feb. 7 with his posthumous induction into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame. The late football coach’s family, friends, and former students will also gather at the Feb. 12 HISD Board of Education meeting to honor Booker.
Booker was head coach at Yates from 1971 to 1988. In those years, his teams won 13 district titles, made it to the state semifinals three times, and won a state championship in 1985. That year, the Lions even beat the favored team, Odessa Permian, 37-0, ending the season with a perfect 16-0 record.
“Coach Booker instilled a great work ethic, and he took full advantage of the players’ ability and put them in the right spot to take that success to the next level,” said Mike Truelove, former HISD football coach and director of Delmar Stadium.
“The standard was, ‘we’re going to win, and this is how we’re going to do it,’” added Quintin Smith, who played on the winning team in 1985. Smith also noted that Coach Booker taught his players to “be consistent, be dedicated to your craft, be willing to learn, and be willing to work.”
Coach Booker’s success was not just on the field but in his influence on his players as well. Thirty of the 36 seniors on the 1985 squad received college scholarships, 19 played four years of college football, 21 earned degrees, and five played for the NFL.
“He did more than Xs and Os, and I think that helped a lot of kids,” said James “Bo” Humphery, a retired coach from Jones HS.
“Coach Booker also knew that there was life after football,” Smith said. “Eighty percent of the football players on the Yates team were not going to play college football, but he still wanted them to make good grades and have the opportunity to go to college.”