Selma debate coach to be missed

Published 4:47pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dear Editor,

Today I learned that Billy Tate had died. When he left his teaching job at Selma High, Selma lost a great debate (or Forensics) coach.

Billy knew how to choose students for his team and motivate them. He required each one to debate the yearly topic from both sides, pro and con. And he also required each one to have one or two individual events, such as after dinner speaking or extemporaneous speaking or poetic interpretation.

They were also required to attend at least one debate camp in the summer. After that, it was hours and hours of research and practice.

But it paid off. Selma High had winning records throughout the southeast and won at Nationals too. Billy taught them strategies, even how to enter the room and unnerve the opponents with how you took off your suit coat and unpacked your thick briefcase, like you knew you were going to stomp them.

Billy volunteered his own van for transportation to the weekly tournaments that took the debaters from Louisiana to Florida and Georgia and north to Tennessee. They debated private and public schools. And won at most.

There is no telling how many of them received debate scholarships to colleges or have jobs in high school and college debate to this day because of Billy. He even boarded my son in Nashville when Jon was in law school.

The list of Selma High School debaters would be impressive and their names would be recognized. He had a way of encouraging them.

At his present assignment, Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tenn., Billy was the director of four forensics teachers.

As I understand it, Billy had a heart attack at a University of Kentucky sponsored tournament last weekend, doing what he loved.

Billy Tate was one dedicated coach and will be missed by the many he touched.


Sally Jordan


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