(Editor’s note: This is the last in a series on the 2018 Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame inductees.)
Dwight Taylor Keith was born October 19, 1900, on a farm near Argo, Alabama, to Jefferson and Viana Keith, the youngest of nine children. In a day when most children in rural Alabama did not attend high school, much less college, Dwight’s parents instilled in him a desire to learn.
When it came time to go to high school, Keith went to boarding school at Jefferson County High School and became a three-year letter winner and two-time All-State player in football, basketball and baseball. The scholarly athlete was also a member of the debating team and played leading roles in school plays. He also developed excellent skills in writing which would serve him well in future endeavors.
After graduation, Dwight, known then as “Speedy,” was recruited to play football at the University of Alabama under legendary Coach Xen C. Scott. He played for the Tide three years before receiving a career-ending shoulder injury in his senior year. Dwight was a three-year letterman in football, basketball and baseball and as a senior was selected to the prestigious Jasons Senior Honor Society.
His teammates included MCSHOF inductee Riggs Stephenson, legendary Alabama players Luke Sewell, Pooley Hubert, Johnny Mack Brown, and Albertville native Lelias Kirby. In fact, Kirby is the person who informed Keith of a coaching job opening at The State Secondary Agricultural School (SSAS), formerly the Seventh District Agricultural School (SDAS) and now Albertville High School.
The Alabama graduate was considering a career in law; however, coaching got into his blood. In his book “Out of the Sand,” Albertville attorney and historian, T. J. Carnes, wrote, “On the recommendation of Lelias Kirby, the SDAS Principal, Professor (J. W.) Letson hired Keith to be Albertville’s coach, sight unseen.” Coach Keith only stayed in Albertville for three years, coaching the 1923, 1924 and 1925 Aggie football and basketball teams to winning records.
According to Birmingham News Sports editor Zipp Newman, “Coach Wallace Wade is responsible for Keith’s love of coaching, giving him a chance to coach basketball in a clinic. He began his coaching career at Albertville – the Aggies – eight of his boys, including Shorty Ogle, playing for Birmingham Southern.”
The teams also included MCSHOF inductees Z.T. “Rabbit” Currey and three of the five Garrett brothers, John, Gordon and Wheeler. Coach Keith stayed at Albertville for three years and had outstanding players and teams.
Concerning Coach Keith’s time in Albertville, T. J. Carnes wrote, “While he was at Albertville, a vivacious bundle of talent came out of Oneonta and joined the faculty. She was a graduate of Judson College and taught expression. Her name was Randa Rasco.”
The couple married on August 19, 1925. Dwight paid future Alabama U.S. Senator John Sparkman $25 to teach his classes while he was on the honeymoon.
Keith was then lured away to Fort Payne High School for one year before leaving for coaching job stops at Gulf Coast Military Academy in Mississippi, Georgia Military Academy near Atlanta, and the prestigious Atlanta Boys High School, where he put together a very successful program which developed many great players for the next 10 years.
Keith’s coaching caught the eye of Georgia Tech’s head football coach Bill Alexander, who hired him to be the freshman football and basketball coach for the Yellow Jackets. After one year, he was moved to coach the varsity.
When legendary Coach Bobby Dodd took over the Jackets’ helm in 1945, Keith coached the Yellow Jacket backfield, was the head basketball coach, head baseball coach, and sports information director.
In 1952, Coach Keith retired from coaching to devote his full time to publishing and writing for the “Coach and Athlete” magazine, which he started in 1938 to assist high school coaches; as well as the “Southern Outdoors” hunting and fishing magazine.
He also founded the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association, serving as its secretary, and assisted many states in starting coaching associations. Keith was instrumental in the Kodak All-American Coach of the Year Clinic that is held in Atlanta each year, founded the Atlanta Tip-off Club, was the driving force in the formation of the National High School Coaches Association, and was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1960.
The National Athletic Coaches Award in Recognition of Coaching and Sportsmanship is named the Dwight T. Keith Award. For his many contributions to athletics throughout the nation, Keith has been nominated, but not yet selected, for induction into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Dwight and Randa had two children, a daughter, Carolita Cantrell, a wife, mother, and professional artist, and a son Dwight L. Keith, who captained the University of South Carolina football team and became a minister. The Keiths also have numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. Sadly, Randa passed away in 1983 and Dwight in 1994. However, his many contributions to those he coached and to the coaches and youth of America will never be forgotten.