Joe Nooner selected for Arkansas Coaches Hall of Fame
Blue Devils track & field coach recognized for legendary career
By BILLY WOODS
WM School District
When the phone call came, Joe Nooner thought it was a prank played by his brother-in-law.
But several seconds into the call, Nooner realized the voice on the other end was not that of Bill Hughes, his brother-in-law and a former coach from Walnut Ridge.
This call was legit.
Nooner was informed by Joey Walters, deputy director of the Arkansas Activities Association, that he had just been elected to the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
It is the third coaching Hall of Fame for the former West Memphis coaching legend. Nooner, who led the Blue Devils to state championships from 19742009, will be inducted to the AHSCA in the annual banquet on July 9 at 6 p.m. at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
Nooner is also in the state track coaching Hall of
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Fame and he was inducted into the West Memphis Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
In addition, Nooner is soon to be inducted into his high school alma mater Hall of Fame as part of Conway High’s School’s undefeated state championship football team in 1964.
“It’s so Bill Hughes to prank me over the phone like that,” Nooner said with a laugh. “I almost hung up on the guy.”
Nooner said he got a call from former fellow West Memphis coaching cohort Lanny Dauksch a few days earlier.
“Lanny said he was calling to see how (wife) Sharon and I were doing during the Covid thing and then he asked me for my contact information,” said Nooner. “I kept wondering why he was asking me for that.”
Nooner will join fellow inductees Kathleen Bell of Texarkana, Jerry Bridges of Cabot and Fort Smith Southside, Jim Cox of Fordyce, Billy Joe Murray of Earle, Scooter Register of El Dorado, Little Rock McClellan and Little Rock Catholic and Boyd Shelton of Bentonville.
Nooner got his start coaching in West Memphis as the East Junior High basketball coach in 197071. Along the way he made his name prominent among high school coaches in Arkansas for his work as head Blue Devil track coach and as a defensive coordinator for the school’s football program from 1976-97.
His prowess on the track surface, however, is what made him a legend.
The Blue Devils were so dominant in track and field in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s that his teams won conference championships in 15 out of 16 years from 198096, including 8 in a row at one point.
Nooner was asked if the AHSCA honor was any more special than his other two Hall of Fame elections.
“Somebody asked me that question a little earlier,” he said. “As big an honor as this one is, there are a lot more important things going on in our world today with Covid.”
Nooner was highly respected for his work as the DC for the Blue Devil football team, which played for state championships in 1974, 1982 and 1984.
But he built West Memphis into a state track power in three different decades.
He coached state champion/ Meet of Champion winners in 19 different events.
Nooner also organized one of the largest track meets in the Mid-South Region of the U.S., the Fellowship of Christian of Athletes Relays for 29 years. The meet drew high school track and field teams from a six-state area.
“I guess I would consider myself a track coach first because that’s what I was a head coach at,” Nooner added. “But being a head coach at the same high school for 35 years had a lot to do with it as well. That’s a little unusual. But I loved coaching football as a defensive coordinator.”
Nooner was also a twoterm president of the Arkansas Track Coaches Association and he served two terms on the Track and Field Games Committee as 4A/5A representative.
His state track and field champions covered 1973, ’74, ’83, ’84, ’94 and 95 (indoor).
“This is truly a great honor and I’m excited to be in it,” said Nooner. “I think about the era I coached in at West Memphis and all the great athletes we had. You can’t put together any sustained success in any sport without great athletes. We had them in West Memphis.”