Editor: The Sun Gazette recently carried the news of the passing, in Alabama, of former Yorktown High School coach Jesse Meeks, and indicated his football team’s wining record under his leadership.
The article failed to mention Meeks’ other accomplishments at Yorktown and in Arlington, particularly his gymnastic teams and gymnastic club, the Yorktown swim club and his many years as pool manager at Dominion Hills. He was a mentor to many boys and girls in Arlington for decades and an inspiration for many of us privileged to have such a good coach.
I met him in 1963 when I was on his boys gymnastics team that won state championships at least four separate years; the gymnastics club had girls and boys and gave girls a chance to compete even though it was not yet recognized as a team sport. One of the female gymnasts from the 1960s – Bev Johnson – later became a famous U.S. mountain and rock climber.
Meeks also was the track and field coach at Yorktown, led the swim club, and started the men’s gymnastics team at Wakefield High School prior to coming to Yorktown.
During summers, he was the manager of the Dominion Hills pool on Wilson Boulevard for decades. In summer, we gymnasts worked out at the Dominion Hills on equipment he provided there. His son, Bobby Meeks, was a swim/dive and rowing coach for years at Dominion Hills and at Yorktown High Schools, and followed his dad into coaching many Arlington youths, including two of my daughters. The Meeks family is a story of athletics and celebrating youths – swimming, gymnastics, football, rowing, and track and field.
Meeks’ 1967 Yorktown High School football team that narrowly lost the state championship to Annandale used our gymnastics team’s rigorous workout, led by a Dutch ballet teacher. The football players didn’t like doing gymnastics or ballet exercises, but the football team lost no player to a serious injury that year, and the players were limber, flexible and quick.
John Reeder, Arlington
Reeder is a 1965 graduate of Yorktown High School.