The late Fred Palmore asked no more of the athletes he coached than he did of himself, and that lifetime of dedication to coaching and mentoring generations of young people has landed him a spot in the Halifax County-South Boston Sports Hall of Fame.
Palmore, a long-time former Halifax County High School football and baseball coach, former Halifax County High School and VMI baseball standout Greg Weddle, former Halifax County High School and University of Virginia baseball standout Keith Lee and former NASCAR Cup Series racing standout Jeff Burton have been selected for induction into the Hall Of Fame.
Palmore, Weddle, Lee and Burton will be inducted during the 31st Annual Halifax County-South Boston Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet sponsored by Elliott Electric Service Inc. The event is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Halifax County Middle School.
Fellow Hall of Fame inductee Greg Weddle, who played football under Palmore in high school, recalled his experiences while playing for his former coach, known for his stern sideline demeanor.
“He was a really good coach,” Weddle said of Palmore. “He’s the guy who taught you to have pride in what you’re doing, work hard every day and not leave anything on the field.
“He taught us life lessons, without a doubt, and he worked us hard. He was an old-school, hard-nosed, get down in the trenches and beat your opponent kind of a coach.”
Palmore graduated from Blackstone High School, where he lettered in football, basketball and track, and he became an All-American football player at Ferrum College, before spending a semester at Guilford College.
He obtained his bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State and his master’s degree from Longwood.
Fred and wife, Michaleen Hutchinson Palmore, met at Nottoway High School, where he was teaching and serving as baseball head coach, 10th grade basketball coach and assistant football coach.
They would have been married for 44 years on March 22, according to Michaeleen.
“He wasn’t a whole lot different at home than he was everywhere else, and he was a good person,” she said.
One lesson he instilled in his students and athletes was respect, according to a story he told his wife.
Palmore had to repeat Algebra I and Algebra II after failing them the first time, and he never passed geometry, which cost him a chance for a scholarship at a bigger school.
“He told me he thought he knew more than the teacher,” said Michaeleen.
“That’s one reason he was on his boys all the time about doing their best in school to have better opportunities.”
Palmore taught and coached football, basketball and baseball at Kenston Forest for four years before going to Nottoway Senior High.
They married in 1975, and Palmore had a football-coaching job at Randolph-Henry High School in Charlotte County before the couple moved to Halifax County in August 1977, where he became head baseball coach and assistant football coach.
He became head football coach around 1980 after serving as assistant under Ron Ramsey for several years, and he was head coach until Larry Smith succeeded him in 1989, according to Michaeleen.
Palmore remained on staff as an assistant football coach for a number or years serving under more than five different head coaches.
Michaeleen herself has been a guidance counselor at Halifax County High School since the couple’s arrival.
People asked Michaleen if her husband was hard to live with, coming home from a tough loss.
“No, he wasn’t,” she’d respond, “he’d come home after a game and we’d talk about it. He didn’t sleep a lot the night after a game, but next morning he’d get up and begin getting started for the next week.
“We had four children who were good athletes, and I was a good supporter, a good athletic supporter,” she said laughing.
Palmore’s other side
Palmore taught driver’s education and coached at the same time while at Halifax County High School.
There was very little to separate the coach from the man, Michaeleen pointed out.
“You knew where you stood with him, there’s no question of that,” she said.
Michaeleen knew of her husband’s career choice before they got married.
“He told me two things before I married him —first, I would always have to work, because of what he did,” she recalls.
“Second, when I would go to ball games, no matter what the sport was, I was to keep my mouth closed when I heard people saying bad things about him. He was right on both. I heard him called all kinds of things.
“You know how people in the stands are, they know more than the coaches,” added Michaeleen, who estimates she didn’t miss one of her husband’s football games in 33 years.
Palmore’s love of football and his dedication to his team is illustrated by a tradition he began of having an offensive and defensive player chosen by their teammates for outstanding performances in the prior game over to his home for a steak dinner the next week.
That was Fred Palmore in a nutshell, a no-nonsense but caring coach on the sidelines, and one who carried his competitive persona home.
Each of his four children, Brandi, Grey, Michelle and Edward, better known as “Bo” carry that same competitive spirit, all of them participating in sports during high school.
They still compete at family get-togethers playing kick ball and other sports, according to their mother.
“He was a good father, when he was home he’d take up time with the children, and he was just as competitive with them as in his coaching,” recalls Michaleen
“He didn’t let them win, and they had to beat him.”
Coach Fred Palmore was his own person, his wife noted.
“He did it because he loved it, and he was passionate about it,” said Michaeleen.
“He wanted these boys to grow up to be good men. He stayed on them all the time.”
The same holds true for his family, his wife adds.
“No question he was proud of all four of them and what they accomplished,” she said.
Grey works with Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, Brandi teaches at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, coaches middle school girls track and Bassett High School girls cross-country.
Michelle is a teacher at Halifax County High School and helps coach the boys’ tennis team, and Bo, an attorney, works with the commonwealth’s attorney’s office in Danville.
Grey, Michelle and Bo, like Brandi, all were high school athletes.
Palmore found relief from the stress he encountered while coaching through golf outings with friends including John Courtney, T.W. Powell and Wayne Lloyd, who helped him unwind and relax, according to his wife.
The golf course was a safe haven for her husband, and he never got upset playing golf, according to his wife.
“That was his way of letting off steam,” she noted.
Fred Palmore’s long-time friend and coaching associate, Ron Ramsey, will make remarks in honor of Palmore Saturday night, but he would never ask for the honor, according to his wife.
“He didn’t do what he did for honors, he did it for love of the sport and for the players.
“If he thought any of them could go to the next level, either for athletics or academics, he would do his best to try and help them.”