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Multiple Teams · Words of Wood-Bob Finley’s Foundations

Bob Finley’s Foundations

                                                By Wayne Wood
   The Hoover Finley Center (scheduled to open in May of this year) had a building foundation which has gradually constructed to the impressive facility soon to be used by many. Bob Finley (the man for whom the facility was named) had personal foundations established in his young life by parents, family, teachers & coaches and many others.
   He, in turn, used what he learned & firmly believed in to establish a foundation as an educator in helping young people develop their own positive foundations for their lives. As a teacher/coach, he influenced thousands both young & old during his career and still his influence continues years after his passing.
   Though Hoover may claim Bob Finley as one of its greatest citizens, there are other places in Alabama which can make the same claim as well as reveal that his life foundations developed there. During his senior year of 1955-1956 at Fayette County High School, he wrote his family history for a class project in an old filler pad. Written were genealogical facts from his family tree & included a detailed description of himself & his parents. I edited & shortened some of it. These are the “Words of Finley” by Robert Owen Finley III or Coach Finley as many know him.
   “Bob Finley, the third Bob of the Finley Clan, came into the world, May 29, 1938. He was born at the home of his grandmother, Mrs. Belle Couch, in Winfield, Alabama. At birth, he weighed only 7 pounds. His parents are M. & Mrs. R.O. Finley, Jr.”
   “At the age of 6, he enrolled at the Winfield Elementary School where he received his elementary education. The training in education came from 6 very competent & capable teachers to whom he owes a great debt. After graduating from Winfield Elementary he, along with his immediate family, moved southward to Fayette where he has resided now for over 4 years.”
   “Bobby is now a teenager, attending Fayette County High School. A physical description of him is very difficult since his appearance is changing so rapidly. But it would be safe to say that his height is a little over 6 feet and his weight a little over 150, his eyes are grayish-blue in color & his hair is black.”
   “His physical build is similar to that of his father but his interests vary greatly from his father. His father’s interest include electricity & math while Bob is more inclined toward other fields. Both have one great common interest & that is sports of any kind.”
   “Bobby is usually a timid, shy person except when in the presence of his immediate family. He despises to make speeches in public. In other words, he likes to think of himself as a man of few words.”
   “Bob’s stay at F.C.H.S. has been a most profitable one indeed. His training in education has come from very qualified teachers. His main weaknesses lie in the mathematical & science world. He hopes to improve his marks in these 2 subjects.”
   “The sporting field caught Bob’s fancy at an early age of 6 & he has been a rabid sports fan as well as participant ever since. Bob tries to play the 3 major sports but could stand a lot of improvement in all 3. He plays quarterback in football, forward in basketball & shortstop in baseball. Of these three, ‘Goose’ as he is often called, loves football best of all.”
   “This fall will be Bob’s final year at Fayette. From there, he plans to enroll in some college to better his education. Some of Bob’s achievements in high school (but he hates ti talk about them) are: president of his class for 3 or 4 years, Beta Club member, earned 3 letters in football & basketball, member of the Usher’s Club (his favorite) & well he’s bragged too much, so he better put an end to this report.”
   Bob Finley’s parents were married in June of 1937. Robert Finley, Jr. grew up in northeast Alabama but moved to Jasper & graduated from Walker County High School (where he played sports). Mary Frances Couch Finley grew up in northwest Alabama mostly in Winfield (where she played basketball). After Bob, they had a daughter Frances & a younger son Jimmy.
   Robert Finley worked for his father (R.O. Finley, Sr.) after high school constructing roads, bridges & airfields for a time before getting married. After his young family was living in Winfield for awhile, World War II was underway. He decided to join the Navy for the last 2 years of the war before coming home to Winfield in 1945. From then until 1950 he was employed as an electrician for the Alabama Power Company before they transferred him & his family to Fayette.
   Continuing the Words of Finley about his father & mother: “Bob is an avid sportsman. Although he won’t admit it he was quite an athlete himself in football, basketball & baseball. To me, my father has no equal. He is very generous in all his actions to his family or friends. He is a living example of the perfect father. Once he make a decision no one can waver him from it. He can be stern or he can be gentle, but always at the right time.”
   “My father has sacrificed much in order to benefit his family. This is one of his greatest virtues. He insists that his family shall always have the best no matter what the sacrifices he has to make. The care of his family is always at the top of his list. He is a very hard worker & has been ‘praised to the sky’ by his employees. He is overworked but he hardly ever complains. My father possesses all the virtues of a true father. He is very dear to us all. He is just the greatest.”
   “The saying goes, ‘a man may work from sun to sun but a woman’s work is never done.’ This saying is one of many adjectives which would describe my mother. She is a very devout Christian & received her religious training from her parents who were devoted church members & workers. As a member of First Baptist Church-Fayette, she rarely ever misses a church service of any kind & works with Vacation Bible School & teaches a Sunday school class.”
   “Housekeeping & homemaking for our family occupies most of Mother’s time. Her cooking is one of the finest & I’ll attest to that. You don’t have to know Mother to appreciate her. Just being around her seems to life a person’s spirits up no matter how low he may feel & she understands every problem of the family always seeming somehow to solve it.”
“She always knows when something is troubling me & she comforts me. You needn’t try to hide anything from her because she usually finds what it is in a hurry. She’s a very pious, kind woman & always friendly toward anyone & everyone no matter their standing. Mary insists that her children do their best in everything & wants them to get a good education with the highest marks possible. She is very dear to me & a great help in time of trouble or despair & is just too marvelous for words.”
   This is a reflection from Bob’s sister, Frances Finley Jones: “What a great time we had growing up in a small town where life centered around church, school & sports. All girls should be privileged to grow up with an older brother like Bobby as well as a young brother like Jimmy to keep a watchful eye on them. I thought my brothers were great athletes who excelled in every sport.”
   “Some people are born to be leaders due to a natural aggressiveness & others become leaders because they feel it’s their duty. Bobby became a dutiful leader. He was first an example to Jimmy & me and also to other students & athletes at Fayette County High. They were just naturally drawn to him with his quiet, humble demeanor.”
   “While Bobby was at the University of Tennessee, I headed to the University of Alabama. The year was 1958 & Coach Bryant had just begun his great career in Tuscaloosa. After classes on Tuesdays & Thursdays, we would stop by Druid Drug Store for cokes. Coach Bryant & some of the other coaches would often be there having coffee. The week of the Tennessee game he asked us if we would be going to Knoxville for the game. I told him that I would be going because my brother played for UT. He said that my brother must be the Finley boy from Fayette & that Alabama had lost too many good players to schools from other states. I was just proud that Coach Bryant knew about Bobby.”
   “My husband Ronnie Jones & I moved to Hoover with our children Eddie & Betsy in 1971 to be closer to Bobby & his family. We were invited to join the coaches for their after game fellowships getting to know them. Ronnie was a Delta airplane pilot but would work in his schedule to help with the teams’ kickers. Bobby had a great memory & could recall every young man who played for him whether he was a star on Fridays or practiced on the scout team.”
   Joe Perkins first knew Bob Finley in Winfield from the 4th grade through the 6th grade in class & playing athletics. Before their 7th grade year, the Finley family moved to Fayette but about a year later the Perkins family moved there also & making the boys happy to reacquaint as friends. Here are his reflections: “On the athletic field we had a great teacher in Coach J.B. McClendon who was a Christian man & his demeanor depicted that in shaping the lives of those who played for him. I certainly saw a lot of Coach Mac’s philosophy of dealing with students & athletes in the way Bob approached his coaching & teaching duties when we worked together at Berry High years later.”
   “Bob became Coach Mac’s coach on the field & called all offensive plays based on guidance from Coach Mac. We were undefeated the first 6 game of our senior year in 1955 until Bob had a concussion then lost the next 3 games. We had no one who could think like him & it obviously hurt us. His intelligence, grades & knowledge could have provided him the opportunity to have chosen any profession like medicine which his uncle was in. But Bob always wanted to coach & teach.”
   “After graduation from high school, Bob & I went our separate ways. He went to Marion Military Institute in Alabama & later the University of Tennessee while I went to a Mississippi junior college, then Auburn before joining the Army. But after awhile, we landed back on the same team in 1966 at W.A. Berry High School coaching together & in 1968 he became athletic director & head coach. However, Bob made you feel that you worked with him not for him.”
   One little interesting note about Bob Finley’s education journey & how it compared to his career at Berry/Hoover. His early days in Winfield saw that their high school nickname was Pirates (similar to Buccaneers). His high school colors at Fayette were orange & black & were the same at Marion Military Institute and of course the colors at Tennessee are orange & white. His coach at UT was Bowden Wyatt & he played behind a member of the famous Majors football family for the Vols. He once remarked, “I practiced a lot & played a little.” When he was a senior, his younger brother Jimmy was a freshman basketball player for the Vols.
   In 1961, Bob Finley was just out of college & into his first teaching/coaching job in Jasper (Walker County High School where his father had graduated from). The school campus is next door to the junior college campus in the city. There was a young college freshman girl named Diane Humphries. In time, the two became acquainted & began dating and by July of 1962 he proposed marriage & she accepted.
   Here are the words of Diane Finley: “I guess you could say we squeezed our wedding into the schedule for Saturday morning-September 29th. The Friday night before, Bob scouted a high school football game while I studied for an important economic test I had on Monday. We were married at a friend’s church in Birmingham. After the wedding, we went to Legion Field to watch Bob’s former college team Tennessee play Auburn. To cap off the romantically fun-filled weekend, I had to go home after the game & study for my test on Monday.”
   “We lived in a small garage apartment in Jasper the first year of marriage. The next summer, Bob & my mother commuted to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa working on their Master’s Degrees. I was pregnant with our first daughter Leeann. After 2 years in Jasper, we moved to Fayette-Bob’s old school. We decided that Leeann would be born in Winfield (Bob’s birthplace) & be delivered by his uncle, Dr. Edwin Couch-his mother’s brother. This was January 24, 1964.”
   “Bob was happy coaching in his home school but also thought that he wouldn’t advance there on the coaching staff. That’s when he met Bobby Dyar who was a salesman for Hibbett’s Sporting Goods in the Birmingham region & Fayette High was one of his customers. He was also a good friend of Larry Wilson who was the head football coach at Berry High School. Bobby recognized Bob’s talent for coaching & recommended him to Larry for the position of varsity boys basketball head coach & assistant football coach. That was 1964.”
   “In the summer of 1966, Leeann developed serious kidney problems yet thankfully made a miraculous recovery. On September 13th of that year, our second daughter Amy was born. Bob was a wonderful father & very good to help me with the girls. He would change & wash out their dirty diapers. Later if he had an errand to run the girls would go with him & loved spending time with their dad.”
   “Since Bob worked very long hours at the high school, there were many nights Amy & Leeann would sit in the living room window & wait for him to get home from football practice. He loved his girls & they thought he hung the moon. The girls loved going over to the high school to play on the mats in the gym & jump on the trampoline. One day after practice when the girls were playing, Leeann told her daddy that if he talked sweeter to the boys they would try harder. We all had a good laugh including the players.”
   “Bob’s biggest fan throughout his childhood & his coaching career was his mother’s sister-Aunt Amilea. Her husband had been a coach & she was an avid sports fan. Come rain or shine, Aunt Amilea would be at every Berry Buc ballgame cheering her team on. She suffered from numerous, serious heart problems yet even at the age of 90, she would drive from Winfield each week to attend Bob’s football games. She truly loved Bob Finley & the Buccaneers.”
   In the summer of 1985, Amy was injured in a terrible car accident that changed the Finley’s lives Through months of recovery & rehab (especially with her eye), Amy & her father developed a very close relationship. Whereas, he had been her hero growing, Amy became his hero.
   In time, Leeann & Amy moved into their careers & family life. Leeann became a nurse locally & Amy became an elementary art teacher (at Hoover’s Gwin Elementary many years). Leeann is married to Carey Clutts & they have 2 boys (Finley & Peyton). Amy is married to Michael Alfano & they have a son-John Michael.
   I must say that Diane Finley is one of the most gracious & sincere ladies I know. I’ve come to know the family well through the years. We say that Bob Finley is a Class Act & you can say the same for his family.
   I think Bob Finley would indicate your Spiritual Foundation is the most important one followed by your Family & Friends Foundation. After that it becomes a choice in honesty, integrity, perseverance, work ethic, etc.
   The foundations Bob Finley developed early in his life were transferred by his efforts to others in his adult life. I hope this new Finley Center in Hoover becomes a viable location & tool for developing good foundations for people in years to come.
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