Rex Dockery Field rededicated in remembrance
The Highland Hundred booster club recently donated a plaque in honor of Rex Dockery and those who lost their lives in a plane crash on Dec. 12, 1983. The University of Memphis will host a ceremony at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in honor of the former Memphis head football coach.
Dockery, Chris Faros, Charles Greenhill and Glenn Jones were on the way to a luncheon for the Lawrenceburg Quarterback Club when the tragic accident occurred.
Faros was the offensive coordinator for the Tigers, and Greenhill was a defensive back. Greenhill is one of four football players in U of M history to have his number retired. Jones was the pilot and a member of the Highland Hundred booster club.
Current U of M Associate Athletic Director Bob Winn, was the sports information director at the time of the crash nearly 30 years ago. He became director in 1981 and was in charge of football and basketball relations. The first head football coach Winn worked with as director was Rex Dockery.
"He was a dynamic person," Winn said. "He was from Cleveland, Tennessee and had the southern boy drawl. He was open and honest but was very fiery on the sidelines. People took to him quickly here in Memphis."
Prior to his coaching career, Dockery played offensive line for the University of Tennessee football team. The Tennessee native got his first job as a head coach at Texas Tech University in 1978 before taking over the job in Memphis in 1981. In each of his first two seasons with the Tigers, Dockery won one game apiece, finishing both seasons with a 1-10 record.
"Dockery had gone through the worst part of rebuilding but had offered hope during that time and improvement could be seen," Winn said. "The team was more and more competitive, and in the 1983 season it showed that the level of talent had evened up."
In 1983, the Tigers started out the season with a win against rival Ole Miss. After the game, the students tore down the goalposts and players carried Dockery on their shoulders. Memphis finished with a 6-4-1 record that season and was the second most-improved team in 1983. Memphis was one of only two schools that improved their record by five wins from 1982 to 1983.
Only 18 days after the season, the four tragically lost their lives. The whole city was in mourning and the Memphis City Council gave approval for the field to be named in Dockery's honor.
"As you look back on it, the death of four people close to you leaves you with a feeling of numbness," Winn said. "We grieved internally as a department and as an institution, but the naming of the field came about because fans and friends of his went to city council and said this is the right thing to do."
On Wednesday night, the field will be rededicated to Dockery and the crash victims and a plaque will be presented to commemorate their lives. The unveiling of the plaque will be held at 2 p.m. by gate three at the end of Tiger Lane.
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