It had been 50 years since he roamed the sidelines at McClain Field in Greenfield, but there Paul Orr was again last Friday, taking part in pregame activities honoring the 1966 Tiger team he coached during his second stint as McClain High School’s head football coach.
Orr is not a Greenfield native, but he adopted it as his hometown after his father moved the family there in 1939 after accepting a minister’s position at the Rainsboro United Methodist Church.
“Greenfield had a very special place in our hearts,” said the 93-year-old Orr, referring to himself and a brother who was one year younger. “We came from a little consolidated school and when we walked into [McClain High School], my goodness, it just kind of took our breath away.”
Before he came to Greenfield, Orr lived in a little place called Summit Station, about 15 miles east of Columbus. He arrived at McClain for his junior year and proceeded to help the Tigers win an outright South Central Ohio League football championship his senior year.
After graduating from high school he enrolled at The Ohio State University where he made the freshman football team – before freshmen could play varsity collegiate sports – during Paul Brown’s first year as Buckeye coach.
“He was something else,” Orr said of Brown.
While the Buckeyes went on to claim the 1942 national championship under Brown, Orr entered the military service. He was selected for the Army Specialized Training Program and was eventually sent back to OSU to continue his military studies in a science program. Then he was told the Army need engineers, so he spent a couple years studying engineering.
Then the Army told him it had enough engineers, but needed doctors. So Orr was sent to medical school at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he said he spent a couple years as basically a nurse. After the war ended he went on to medical school at the University of North Carolina.
“While I was there I decided I didn’t want to be a doctor,” Orr said. “My heart was always interested in athletics, I think.”
So back he went to OSU again, this time to become a teacher and coach.
His first seven years out of college were spent as a teacher and coach at Hamilton Township, just south of Columbus. But then a teaching and coaching job came open in Greenfield and in the fall of 1954, Orr found himself back at McClain as a teacher and the varsity football coach.
He led the Tigers for six years, winning SCOL titles in 1954, 1957, 1958 and 1959 while posting an overall record of 37-13-4.
Orr spent the next several years as the superintendent at the Fairfield Local Schools in Leesburg, retired from there, then in the fall of 1966 came back as the McClain football coach. He coached for five seasons and had a 15-35 record.
“I had offers from Wilmington and Miami Trace, but I just couldn’t see myself coaching against McClain, so that was pretty much the end of it,” Orr said of his coaching days.
After that Orr moved to a farm, then spent three to four years working on farm loans for a bank. Then one day Highland County Court Judge Bob Judkins, who was a student when Orr was the principal at McClain, paid Orr a visit to offer him a job. Orr said Judkins said the court was having some issues and needed a bailiff/probation officer. Orr said he liked the idea of being a bailiff, but told Judkins he didn’t want to be a probation officer. Judkins, according to Orr, said he could work that out.
“I said, ‘Let’s give it six months or so,’ and I was there for 30 years,” Orr said.
He said that one time, when he was 90, he was the oldest bailiff in Ohio.
Orr has since retired, but he still sings in the Greenfield United Methodist Church choir (he sang in a barbershop quartet called The Accidents for many years) and said he has no plans of going anywhere soon.
“Life is still fun. I have no qualms about wanting to stick around and see what happens,” Orr said.
That’s what he was doing last Friday when the McClain class of 1966 was celebrating its 50-year anniversary during MHS homecoming activities. The game ball was presented to Orr, along with 1966 football coaching staff member Fred Raike and team captains Jim “Tate” Taylor and Neal Smith McCoppin. They then presented the ball to the current McClain captains and coaching staff.
“I thought it was nice. It was really for the 50th anniversary of the class,” Orr said. “But I got to see some of the old boys I had when I was a coach. It was a joy for me to see some of those guys I hadn’t seen for a while. Greenfield is an interesting place. I’m kind of glad I ended up around here.”
Orr said his life has been an interesting trip, to say the least.
“It’s a wonderful life. That’s the way I look at it, and it still is at 93,” Orr said. “I’m not ready to sack it in yet.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.