From Bearcats to Red Devils
VI. The Appendix: Coach Buddy Bufford
Buddy Bufford - who was he? Some say he-was the captain of his football team and a born leader. Some say he was a civic and church leader. Some say he was a veteran of his country. Some say he was a scholar with a masters degree. Some say he was one of the best coaches Lincolnton High School ever had. Which is right? All and none are right. Yes, he was all these things but that does not sum up what he really was, it only poorly lists some of his achievements. Buddy was a friend to all, a leader, an example.
Buddy was a lifelong resident of Lincoln County. He was captain of the 1943 football team. He was a member of the Lincolnton United Methodist Church and was not only on the Church Board of Education but was also a teacher of the Young Adult Class. He served in the Army and was stationed in Japan. He was a graduate of Lincolnton High School and an honor graduate of the University of Georgia, where he went back in 1959 and received his masters. He was a football coach. He was a good football coach. He was not only a teacher of the game, but was good at teaching those unteachable, intangible moral lessons of the game that were only passed on by men of his stature. He only coached here 3 years, leaving a 6-4-0, 7-2-1 and a 12-0-0 record, but in doing so he left behind two "Coach-of-the-Year" titles, one "Team-of-the-Year" in all classifications title and gave Lincolnton something it never had before and is never to be forgotten - its first State Championship Title. In 1960 Lincolnton went 12-0-0 winning Class C Champs and in doing so defeated the Class B champs, Washington-Wilkes, therefore theoretically winning both Class B & C State Championships.
When the football season of 1960 began, Buddy Bufford, one of the most popular high school coaches in the entire Savannah River Area, had been fighting poor health for 10 months. He had been stricken with pneumonia. He was not notified that he had cancer until 4 months after his hospitalization in October of 1959. Still Buddy underwent surgery with the knowledge that his chances of survival were less than an even bet. He survived the surgery and went back to work.
He never mentioned his illness to the football team, but they knew. Young people are perceptive about such things and to say that his fortitude on the field and at work was an inspiration for them to dig deeper and give a little more than maybe they would have otherwise, is not enough. He didn't miss many days of practice and if he did, he planned the workout. For twelve straight games Lincolnton kept improving and Buddy kept improving; Lincolnton kept winning and Buddy kept winning. So when the season was over, he did not die of cancer, he had won that battle. But in doing so, he had asked more of his body that it was able to give. He didn't know of such phrases as "asking too much" or "not worth the effort". He was an example and a leader that carried on the tradition of football in Lincolnton in a way that is not likely to be forgotten by anyone who knew him or knew of him.
To sum up Buddy's love of life and football, a poem that was kept in his personal football scrapbook by Dwight Keith reads,
As a hunter who returns at the close of day
With his bags all loaded with game -So you have finished your season of play,
And return with your laurels and fame -Silver trophies and emblems of gold
You have for the job you have done;
But life's greatest values are not bought and sold,
But in the game of life they are won.
The Silver trophy will tarnish someday,
And the gold will be lost or sold,
And the cheers of the crowd will fade away
When the evening of life grows cold;
But the warm handclasp of a loyal friend
Will never tarnish nor fade;
And there's no other gift that Heaven can send
Like a friend the gridiron has made!
Coach Thomas Bunch