Legendary Linfield coach dies
Jun 26, 2007 McMinnville N-R/News-Register from staff and wire reportsHONOLULU - Legendary Linfield College football coach Paul Durham died Friday night at his home in Honolulu. He was 93.
Durham's 1956 team started the string of 51 consecutive winning seasons that continues to this day and is college football's national record for all divisions.
He was Linfield's head football coach for 20 seasons, compiling a 122-51-10 record for a .694 winning percentage. In his final 12 years, "Once I got the hang of it," he said, the Wildcats went 90-16-6 (.830), won six Northwest Conference championships and reached the national championship game of the NAIA twice.
Durham took over the athletic director position at the University of Hawaii in 1968. He held that position until he stepped down in 1975 for health reasons.
Durham, who also served as the sports editor for the News-Register for several years while coaching the Wildcats, said the thing he is most proud of is the type of players he was able to recruit to represent Linfield.
"You have to have good people," he said at a luncheon in his honor at Linfield in 2005. "A lot of them have done wonderful things after college. I claim a lot of them as my sons."
Durham said he stayed in touch with quite a few of his former players.
"A lot of them come to Hawaii and we have lunch and tell a few lies," he said. "I'm lucky that way."
Durham was a star athlete at Linfield in the 1930s, competing in football, basketball and track and field, and is one of the few Wildcats in history to earn 10 letters.
He received a small scholarship to attend Linfield as the nation sank into the Great Depression. He earned a free room by working at the original Macy's Funeral Home in McMinnville.
"I shared a bed with another football player," Durham said. "In those days, two guys sleeping in the same bed did not raise any eyebrows."
Durham was a jack of all trades in McMinnville. He did everything - from coaching the Linfield football team to writing for the McMinnville News-Register to singing every Sunday morning in the First Baptist Church. He wrote a popular column "Dodging with Durham" while with the News-Register.
"I don't know how I became sports editor of the News-Register," Durham said. "I always enjoyed writing, took a journalism class in high school, and wanted Linfield sportsmen's names in the paper. I always knew people enjoy seeing their name in print, even me, and that led to the column, built on names. I don't remember writing in high school or college in the school paper, but I may have.
"When I started writing the column in the N-R, (publisher) Phil Bladine, a good friend of mine, named it 'Shooting the Bull.' After a bit, some readers started adding a word to it in their minds, and we decided we had to get a new name. Bladine suggested 'Dodging with Durham,' which was fine with me."
One observer opined that Durham might have been the only college football coach in America who was never criticized in print by the local sports editor.
During summers, he ran the McMinnville city recreation program - overseeing activities in the city park during the day and softball games at night.
Well-known for his singing prowess, Durham also taught music early in his career as a coach at Yamhill High School.
In a Letter to the Editor (New-Register, May 26, 2007) Yamhill resident Gordon Dromgoole wrote, "During 1940, (Durham) also directed "The Mikado" put on by the school. My uncle, Gordon Zimmerman, was a junior and played the lead. Coach Durham told him, 'You can't make a basket, but you sure can sing!'
"I'm sure most people aren't aware of coach Durham's theatrical talents because he was such a great coach, but many in Yamhill remember him as a multitalented asset to the community."
In town for the Linfield Hall of Fame banquet in November 2005, Durham received two standing ovations.
"I've led a wonderful life, worked with great cohorts and around terrific students, and wouldn't change anything," he said. "How about that? Sounds like I could have been a preacher."
Durham said he appreciated the way the people of McMinnville treated him and wanted them to know that Mac would always have a special place in his heart.
"Thank you for being so nice to me and my family while I went to college here from 1932 to 1936 and when I lived here after that for 20 wonderful years," he said. "I was lucky."
"Coach" is survived by three children, Jeff of Tigard, Terry of Beaverton and Cathy Devine of Chicago; seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren (with two more on the way) and more friends and admirers than ever could be counted.