From staff reports
A highly educated trailblazer, a stern disciplinarian and a compassionate coach are just a few of the ways that friends describe H.B. Province, who was born in Holt.
“He was a part of this great class of champions that lit the way for all of us to get to where we are today,” said retired Army Lt. Col. James L. Walker, a member of his 1962 football team.
Province left home in the 1940s to attend Alabama State College in Montgomery.
He graduated from there with a bachelor’s degree and moved to Hartselle where he became the head coach at Morgan County Training School.
In 1946, Rev. Judson King, the principal at the all-black Trinity High School described by Walker as “legendary,” asked Province to accept the head coaching position at his school.
At Trinity he coached four sports and created an athletic powerhouse.
Coaching with inferior equipment and hand-me-down uniforms, Province won football games in three decades.
His first team in 1946 went 8-1. Five years later, Province’s 1951 juggernaut scored 116 points and held opponents to one touchdown while going 9-0. From 1952 to 1958, Trinity had a 44-11 record.
In 1958, Province’s team, led by Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inaugural class member Arthur “Redbone” Kirby, went 11-0.
In his third decade of winning football games the 1962 team went 7-2.
During Province’s career, which spanned 22 years, the coach won more than 150 football games and coached seven North Alabama High School Athletic Association All-Star games.
Province’s teams played outdoor basketball for 12 years in the rain, snow and mud with winning records.
In 1957, a gymnasium was built at Trinity and Province began applying his methods of discipline to the basketball team.
Three years later, his team was in the district tournament finals at Alabama A&M College.
“Province was a good coach. He was about like he was in football, a strict disciplinarian who knew the game,” said Ronnie Fletcher, who played football and basketball for Province and is a member of the LCSHOF.
Province was the hitting coach, baserunning coach, pitching coach and head coach of the baseball team at Trinity.
For 12 years he coached the Panthers to wins that Walker described as “exciting victories.”
Province’s 1954 team, which featured James Nolan, who Walker said is arguably the greatest athlete in Trinity history, went 18-2.
Province was the head track coach at Trinity for 16 years and his 1958 team, featuring LCSHOF member Louis Coger, took first place in the 100 and 200-yard dash at the district meet.
“He was a good coach, and he was all we had. He was also a great man,” said Coger.
Province believed in graduating his players, many of whom Walker said were “academically gifted.” His players went on to become accountants, doctors, lawyers and military officers. Always believing he should set the example, Province returned to school after 20 years of teaching and coaching and obtained his master’s degree in 1965.
Province was more than just a coach. As president of the Limestone County Chapter of the NAACP, he was also an activist and a humanitarian who believed in basic rights for all of mankind, Walker said.