Meredith Was Legendary Coach, Respected Supervisor

Don Meredith
Don Meredith

His ball players and students remember a flamboyant showman who was known for yelling at the referees and tossing his jacket into the stands. County leaders knew him for his work on the Board of Supervisors following his election in 2003. Don Meredith, a Lord Botetourt High School basketball coach with a storied career and a member of the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors, died last Friday. He was 69.

Meredith, already retired from the school system, began representing the Fincastle District in 2004 and won the election again in 2007 after running unopposed. A long illness kept him from meetings in the latter half of 2009 but he remained interested in the county’s business until the end. “The last time I saw him, he was very upbeat,” Buchanan District Supervisor Terry Austin said.

Meredith’s passing left a hole in the hearts of his players, many of whom called their former coach a friend even after they moved beyond high school and into their jobs in the community. Prior to speaking at the coach’s memorial service, Rodney Spickard of Troutville commented that “He would call me to ask me how my son was doing. He would do anything for his former players.”  Spickard had played under Meredith for three years.

Spickard called Meredith a “basketball genius [who] loved the game and studied it.” While fans may recall Meredith’s wild antics on the sidelines, the players knew that they won games not because of Meredith’s courtside demeanor but because he had learned the plays of the other teams. “He was prepared,” Spickard said.

Over the course of Meredith’s coaching career, his basketball teams won over 340 games and eight district championships at Lord Botetourt, which led to his induction into the high school’s sports hall of fame.

“He was a very colorful, high energy person who could motivate people,” said Alan Austin of Daleville, who played for Meredith for two years.  “I remember how he would get if you didn’t play up to what he expected … all red-faced and [he would] push you and motivate you to work that much harder.”

Meredith grew up on a Botetourt County farm in the 1950’s. He left for college and spent 10 years teaching and coaching outside of the area before returning to teach at Botetourt Intermediate School in 1970. Six years later, he began his career at Lord Botetourt, where he stayed until his retirement in 1995.

His interest in local politics came about at the urging of his constituents. “Don knew everyone,” Supervisor Terry Austin said. “That really benefited him. He could address the needs of the people in the northern end of the county and in Buchanan. He had a kind of natural insight that’s really going to be missed.”

Austin recalled that Meredith was instrumental in helping the Board resolve a boundary line change with Roanoke County. Folks in the Hollins area found themselves in Roanoke County without ever moving. The problem primarily centered on children who had started school and wanted to finish at Lord Botetourt, rather than attend Northside. At Meredith’s urging, the school system and county officials worked out a way to allow affected households to continue to send their children to Botetourt County schools if they so desired.

“He always talked about helping his people, the residents of the Fincastle District” County Administrator Jerry Burgess said. One of Meredith’s achievements included purchase of the site for the new Eagle Rock Library. The property, located in front of Eagle Rock Elementary School, eventually will also house a community center.

The supervisors met on Tuesday to discuss a temporary replacement for Meredith’s seat. That appointee will serve until a special election in November.

Meredith is survived by his wife, Betty Jo, two daughters, and a grandson.

By Anita Firebaugh
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