Coach Walter Ray Tootle of Metter, and a native son of Tattnall, was honored for his 22 years of service as Secretary-Treasurer for Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Region 3A at the Region 3A basketball tournament in Claxton on Thursday, February 17, 2022.
As Secretary-Treasurer, Coach Tootle was responsible for organizing and monitoring all school related Region 3A activities, including sporting, and literary events that included one-act plays. In addition to lining up officials, judges, and locations for the events, he handled the financial responsibilities for the Region.
Coach Tootle and his entire family were called to center court in the new Claxton Gymnasium while they were waiting to see the Metter Tigers play in the tournament, and he was somewhat taken aback when Metter High School Athletic Director Vicki Bowen walked to center court with a microphone and announced, “Coach Ray Tootle, please come forward.”
Bowen, on behalf of 3A Region President Mark Stroud, announced that the tournament’s name would now be the Ray Tootle Region 3A Tournament in honor of his years of dedicated service. A banner with the new name for the tournament was displayed. It was fitting recognition for a man who had provided 51 years of service to students and athletes in Southeast Georgia.
Coach Tootle was a Reidsville High School (RHS) graduate of 1958, and he was an outstanding fullback and linebacker on the 1957 Reidsville Tiger football team that won the 1957 2B Subregion Championship. He was a starter on the RHS basketball team, and he played tennis on the South Georgia College team in 1960-61. One might argue that Coach Tootle’s athletic background in high school and college athletics was an accurate predictor of his post graduate career.
Coach Tootle began his career as an assistant coach and PE teacher at Dublin High School in 1968 after graduation from Georgia Southern College, following a four-year stint in the United States Air Force. In 1973, he moved his family, including his wife, Cindy, and their young daughter, Michele, and infant son, Brian, to Metter to become the Metter High School Head Football Coach, and he also served as golf and tennis coach. In 1977, he moved to the lower grades at Metter Middle School as the school’s PE Teacher, and he became the Metter-Candler County Recreation Director. During his tenure, the Recreation Department was named District Department of the Year.
After leading the Recreation Department for a decade, Coach Tootle returned to Metter High School as Assistant Principal. He served in that position for seven years before moving to the Candler County Board of Education as Director of Transportation. He retired in 1996.
It was after retirement from public education that Coach Tootle became Secretary–Treasurer of GHSA Region A. It was a perfect post retirement job for a coach and educator who loved high school sports and spent his entire teaching and coaching career serving students and athletes in South Georgia. Even after he gave up coaching, his enthusiasm for all sports kept him in contact with coaches throughout the region and state, so it was a seamless move into the job. He could be seen in the stands and talking to coaches at virtually every region contest, and, although it kept him very busy, it was a dream job, and he remained active in Region 3A and GHSA sports until 2019.
During his tenure at Region 3A, Coach Tootle became widely known as the Voice of the Metter Tigers. He joined the broadcasting crew of Radio Metter in 1991 along with another Metter coaching legend, Felix Johnston, and provided the play-by-play so people at home could keep up with the game. Felix was the color commentator, and, like the immortal Larry Munson of the Georgia Bulldogs, Coach Tootle and Coach Johnston made it abundantly clear that they were Metter Tigers.
Ray gave up his broadcasting job in 2018. That marked the end of 51 years of teaching, coaching, organizing athletic events, or broadcasting athletic competitions in Southeast Georgia. Ray’s son, Brian, who was an outstanding Metter High School linebacker in the early 1990s, said he was very proud of his father.
“He put a lot of effort into every job he had,” Brian said. “Everyone knows him. He tries not to miss any athletic events.”
No one who knows him would expect that to change.
Some information in this article was provided by Suzanne Tyson of The Metter Advertiser.