Surrounded by family and friends, Harris “Coach Black” Wilson Jr. was honored on Aug. 29 as Natchitoches’ “Hometown Hero” for his actions during a recent house fire that destroyed almost everything. Black escaped the fire, but when he realized his niece and mother were still trapped inside, he ran back in to save them.
Sponsored by Modern Woodmen of America, the event involved family members and coaches speaking about Coach Black’s home and work life.
Greg Burke, Northwestern State’s athletic director, first spoke about Coach Black’s widespread influence on the Natchitoches community.
“I think everyone in this room – whether you are a coach in this department, an athlete in this department, or you just live in this community, you know Harris Wilson Jr.,” Burke said. “He has been a hero to us for a long, long time.
“When I [first met Coach Black]… It didn’t take me very long to realize why everyone thought so much of him. He is a very special person to me, personally,” he said.
Kathrine Hamilton, Black’s aunt, gave a moving account of Black’s courage and tenacity during the events of July 15, the day her sister’s house caught on fire.
“My sister was asleep under a CPAP machine, so she couldn’t hear anything,” Hamilton said. “He woke them up, but as they tried to run back to the hallway, the whole house had just become consumed.”
Reginald Washington, a cousin, made it to the back window and managed to help get Coach Black, his mother and niece out the window to safety.
Some speakers told stories of Coach Black from throughout the years, and others explained Black’s love for his family and NSU.
“He calls everyone almost every morning,” Brenda Milner, another aunt, accounted. “Throughout the day, he is calling or texting you ‘I love you’ and such.”
“He will call and ask if he can go [to NSU], and I try to tell him that he doesn’t need to go that day, but he will just get mad and call the next person and the next person until someone says he can go.”
Coach Black was given a t-shirt and a certificate from Modern Woodsmen of America, but NSU had another surprise for him.
Burke presented Black with the game ball from NSU’s last victorious Tech game, which Black was present for. The ball will be displayed in the trophy case in the Stroud room in Coach Black’s honor.