Beacon of Light Award 2018
For most of the last half of the 20th century, the McDonald Street Rattlers were the Chicago Bears (you might say) of the Waycross-Ware County Recreation Department’s Midget League. And the reason they were so fierce and fearsome year in and year out can be summed up in two words …Hollis Bethea, In football (basketball too), Hollisfield Bethea could get the most out of his young players and the results were plain: .800-plus winning percentages most seasons and championship trophy after championship trophy. The Rattlers didn’t win the league every year, but they usually had a say in who did.
Well-known to family, friends, and the community on the whole, Hollisfield Bethea has that winning personality that folks admire. The colorful coach is called by a variety of names, among them “Coach Shake,” “Shakedown” and “Bee-Shay.” And after grandson Fred Gibson made his mark on the football field at Ware County High and UGA, those who didn’t really know him would say, “See that guy? He’s Fred’s grandfather!”
Hollis and Delores raised their grandson all the way to adulthood and Fred parlayed his granddaddy’s coaching example to a great career… even to the NFL for a short while!
Hollis played football for the Center High Tigers, graduating in 1967. By the 1970s he was coaching the McDonald Street team and refereeing rec league games in whatever sport was in season. He also served on the community Recreation Board.
His former players credit him with giving direction in their life and helping them find a purpose. He provided transportation to and from practices and games for the many of them who would not have been able to participate otherwise.
In 2012, his fading health sidelined him from his great love for coaching. Toward the end of his career, he coached four of his own grandchildren in Flag League football.
Hollis and Delores Bethea have eight children, 22 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren. They worship at Macedonia Baptist Church (though Hollis hasn’t been able to attend of late due to his health). He resides at Harborview Satilla.