It is hard to believe that over 40 years have passed since Coach Herbert Lewis moved to Newport. Lewis joined Coach Bill Keedy’s football staff coaching the Newport Greyhounds in 1977. Coach Lewis and his wife, Helen, are retiring this year after four decades of dedication to Newport Special School District.
Lewis grew up in Star City, Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 1977 with degrees in History, Social Studies and French. As a member of the UAM football team, Lewis was a team captain and All-American. During his time at UAM, he began dating Helen. After graduation, Lewis remained in Monticello, working, as he looked for a career in coaching. One of the coaches on the UAM staff knew Coach Keedy. As fate would have it, Newport High School was looking for a French teacher and Keedy needed a defensive coach. It was a natural fit!
Helen Lewis grew up in Dumas, Arkansas and continued her education at UAM. After Herbert moved to Newport to begin his coaching career, she remained at UAM to complete her degree in Special Education. The couple married in 1979 and Helen joined the staff at NHS in 1980, after one year at Augusta High School. The couple bought a home in 1980 and still live in it today. Lewis has three children; Kendrick Lewis, lives in Texas, Peronica Lewis, lives in Colorado and Antwon, the youngest of Herbert and Helen, who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.
As the Head Track Coach for the Newport Greyhounds, Coach Lewis won 10 Conference Championships and 10 Runner-Up Championships. He served on the Track and Field Advisory Board from 2000-2004 and was honored as Jackson County Coach of the Year three times. He coached such athletes as Cross Country Runner John Allen, Hurdlers Caleb Cross and Billy Ellis, and Decathlete Russell Lane.
As Greyhound Defensive Coordinator, Lewis was part of 17 conference championships, and two state champions; 1981 and 1991. In 1992, he was chosen to coach the 1992 High School All-Star Game.
After 41 years for Herbert Lewis and 38 years for Helen Lewis, what is in store for the next season of life? “I told my friends that I will learn to fish,” laughs Herbert Lewis. I asked which role at Newport High was his favorite; coaching? Or administration? He was quick to respond that he loved them both. “As a person gets older, the rain gets a little colder, the nights get a little later, and the heat gets hotter,” smiles Lewis.
Which did Lewis love the most, the players or the sport? “You have to love both, the kids and the sport, to be a high school coach,” he states. What advice would you give to a new teacher? “Kids do whatever you let them do,” he explains. “Some kids are ideal kids in one classroom and are helter skelter in another teacher’s room.” He smiles and laughs as he declares, “When a person has been at this as long as Helen and I, after about a month or so, we know whether the new teacher is going to make it.”
Coach and Helen plan to remain in Newport and enjoy retirement. “We will miss the kids and those moments when you know you have impacted their lives in a positive way. Those kids are what makes this profession amazing. Students teach us so many things when we are actually supposed to be teaching them.”