Statue honoring Summerville’s Coach McKissick, wife unveiled

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 3:25 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - A Summerville nonprofit dedicated a statue Friday afternoon to the winningest football coach and his wife at the stadium where he spent most of his legendary career.

Rain forced the dedication ceremony for the statue honoring Coach John McKissick and his wife, Joan, inside the nearby auditorium.

During the ceremony, McKissick Call thanked the community on behalf of her family.

“Nothing can be more special to them than having a place of honor overlooking the home of the Green Wave,” she said. “So on behalf of the McKissick family, please accept our sincere and humble thanks for recognizing, appreciating and memorializing their service to their beloved community.”

But a downpour ended just in time for the unveiling. Joan McKissick and their daughter, Debbie McKissick Call helped pull the bright green cover, revealing the statue.

McKissick held the record for the most wins of any football coach at any level.

Friday afternoon’s program included remarks from state Sen. Sean Bennett, Rep. Chris Murphy, Dorchester County School District 2 Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins, and Jimmy Typper with the South Magnolia Event Group, which is presenting the statue.

McKissick was born in September of 1926 in Greenwood, SC. He would go to Kingstree High School before graduating and heading to Brevard College. After a short stint in the Army, he would return to school at Presbyterian where he graduated in 1951 with a degree in economics.

Summerville Coach John McKissick's widow, Joan, and their daughter, Debbie McKissick Call, look...
Summerville Coach John McKissick's widow, Joan, and their daughter, Debbie McKissick Call, look at the just-unveiled statue of the McKissicks at Summerville Memorial Stadium.(Live 5)

He arrived at Summerville to lead the Green Wave in 1952, and success was something he and his team found early and often.

Three years after his arrival, he’d win his first state championship. And followed that up with another the next season. It would be the start of a run that saw McKissick win at least one state title in each of his first five decades.

Region titles were almost commonplace at Summerville under McKissick. In 37 times in his 63 years with the Green Wave, the team won at least a share of the region championship.

Only twice in 63 years, 1957 and 2001, did a Summerville team end the season with a record under .500. By comparison, there were five times when his team would finish the season without a loss.

More state titles would come; 1969, back to back in 1978 and 79, then his most successful run with four titles in the 80′s including a three-peat from 1982-1984 and again in 1986.

Once McKissick reached the 1990s, that’s when the career milestones started to come. In 1993, he would win his 406th career game. Making him the all-time winningest head coach on any level of organized football. That win brought the coach and the school national recognition. But for McKissick, it was just the next win.

After what turned out to be his final state title in 1998, McKissick’s next career-defining win came in 2003 when he became the first coach to win 500 games. Nine years later, his 600th win came against one of his former assistants beating Kenny Walker and Ashley Ridge.

The recognition he’s been awarded over six decades have been almost countless. Three times McKissick has been named the national high school coach of the year. He’s also a member of the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina football coaches association hall of fame, the South Carolina hall of fame and the national high school hall of fame.

Along the way, McKissick coached thousands of kids in his time in Summerville. Some went on to fame in the NFL like Stanford Jennings or AJ Green. But maybe the most important number to the legend would be three. The number of his grandsons he’s gotten to coach with the Green Wave; Richard and Joe Call and Donny McElveen.

He died in November 2019 at age 93.

John McKissick arrived at Summerville High School in 1952.
John McKissick arrived at Summerville High School in 1952.(Live 5)

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