News Detail

William Bee Ravenel III, Coach

In the 1954 edition of Whispers, the dedication to Mr. Ravenel reads, “Teacher, leader, coach — he taught us what we know about writing and about literature; he directed and sustained our best efforts; he inspired us on the athletic field.”
Mr. Ravenel was an English teacher at EHS from 1936 to 1968 with a brief interruption of his service to the School from 1941 to 1945 when he served in the 6th armored Division of Patton’s Third Army. He received a Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters and a Silver Star in combat. A couple of years after returning to EHS, Mr. Ravenel became the chair of the English Department and remained in that position until his appointment to assistant headmaster in 1967. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in May 1968.
Like many of the EHS faculty that came before and after Mr. Ravenel, his commitment to the School went beyond the classroom. He enthusiastically devoted his energy and time to the development of student-athletes. He served as varsity coach to football (1939-41), basketball (1938), and baseball (1940-41, 1947-53), in addition to over 20 years as first the head, then assistant coach of JV football and 15 years as coach of Greenway League Baseball. According to his obituary printed in the 1968 spring edition of the EHS magazine, Mr. Ravenel told his family that he “particularly enjoyed coaching the younger boys in sports because of their enthusiasm and sense of fun.”
Senator John McCain ’54 was one of those younger boys whom Mr. Ravenel coached and influenced. “After classes, [Mr. Ravenel] coached the junior varsity football team, on which McCain was a scrappy, underweight linebacker and offensive guard,” writes Robert Timberg in his book “John McCain: An American Odyssey.”
“Short, muscular, and outspoken like McCain, Ravenel seems to have served, if not as a surrogate father to John, then as a combination big brother and Dutch uncle. ‘I worshipped him,’ said McCain. ‘He saw something in me that others did not. And he took a very personal interest in me and we spent a good deal of time together. He had a very important influence on my life.’”
In Timberg’s book, Sandy Ainslie ’56, former EHS Headmaster and student of Mr. Ravenel, is quoted as saying, “Every school has its master teachers, and during our time here, he was one of the gods.”
Mr. Ravenel played both football and baseball at Davidson College, and according to his obituary, “This interest in sports perhaps explains why so often he encouraged EHS students to continue sports in college.”