Father Of Arkansas Coach Passes Away at 74

FAYETTEVILLE -- Houston Nutt Sr., a long-time coach at the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the father of Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, died in a Little Rock hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Nutt Sr. had been in critical condition at Little Rock Baptist Health Medical Center after suffering a massive stroke early Monday morning.

He was surrounded by friends and family when he died from complications from the stroke at 2:38 p.m. Nutt Sr. was 74.

"On behalf of the Nutt family, I would like to thank all of the outstanding medical professionals at Baptist Medical Center," Houston Nutt Jr. said in a statement released by the university Wednesday afternoon. "I would especially like to thank Drs. David Reding and Robert Searcy and all of the nurses that cared for my father. In the past few days, we have been overwhelmed by the showing of support from people throughout Arkansas.

"We appreciate your continued prayers as we deal with the loss of a truly special husband, father, grandfather, brother, coach, teacher and friend."

The Fordyce native, who was born Oct. 9, 1930, was well-known throughout Arkansas as the father of the state's most famous coaching family. All four sons -- Houston, Danny, Dickey and Dennis -- work as college football or basketball coaches.

Houston, his oldest son, is 53-33 in seven seasons as Arkansas and Danny is an offensive assistant with the Razorbacks. Dickey and Dennis are head basketball coaches at Arkansas State and Texas State, respectively. The family was featured in a Sports Illustrated article in 1999.

"There was nothing fake or false about him," said Arkansas director of football operations Louis Campbell, who met Nutt Sr. when he recruited Houston Jr. in the 1970s. "He was always optimistic, a people person.

"I think his family speaks for itself. A coach that raises a family of coaches and they're all well-respected, successful in a heck of a lot more ways than just winning and losing. I think you could go to the hospital (Wednesday afternoon) or to his house and see the number of people that are coming. That's a testimony in itself."

In addition to his status as a well-known patriarch, Nutt Sr. was recognized for his achievements as a coach and athlete. The former Fordyce High School football and basketball standout was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2001

He played basketball at Kentucky under legendary coach Adolph Rupp, but left the school after a scandal involving three players forced the cancellation of the 1953 season. Nutt Sr. transferred to Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State, and played under legendary coach Hank Iba.

Nutt Sr. holds the distinction of being the only person to play for both coaches.

But he made his biggest impact as a teacher, athletic director and basketball coach at the Arkansas School for the Deaf, where he and his wife, Emogene, worked for 32 years. Nutt Sr. led the school to more than 500 wins in his tenure and left a lasting impression on the hearing impaired children he worked with.

"He was a wonderful man," said Katie Hodge, administrative assistant at the Arkansas School for the Blind, which shares a campus with the deaf school. "I remember his smile and he was always trying to teach me sign language. He was just a kind man and always interested in everyone else."

Two of his three brothers, Fred and Clyde, were deaf. Nutt Sr. also had a mild hearing impairment as a child that worsened over the years. Two of his sons, Dickey and Danny, also inherited hearing impairments.

Nutt Sr. continued to serve on the Arkansas School for the Deaf's board of trustees until his death.

Even though Nutt Sr. retired from teaching and coaching in 1987, Campbell said he never stopped doing either.

"When I'd see him at (an Arkansas) game he was always teaching me a few different signs in sign language," Campbell said. "Then he'd brag to Emogene about how well I picked it up. That's him. That was the way he did things.

"He was a coach's coach that raised a family of coaches. He was always teaching. I remember when he came and watched my sons play basketball. He'd brag on them and then he'd coach them a little bit. He'd give them a little technique or drill, some way they could improve their game.

"Words don't do him justice. You had to know him."

Houston Nutt Jr. often recognized his parents, and his upbringing, as the reasons for his success in the coaching ranks.

He credited them in 1998 when he was introduced as Arkansas' coach and kept them close to his side throughout his first seven seasons.

Nutt Sr. and Emogene, who were married for 49 years, have been fixtures at Arkansas games, both home and away, since 1998. Nutt Sr. often rode one of the team buses to the stadium before games.

"Mr. Nutt went out of his way to be very supportive of me," Arkansas chancellor John A. White said Wednesday. "In fact, he taught me some sign language so we could communicate from across the room.

"What an impact he had on Arkansas! He will truly be missed by so many, including thousands of whom he never met."

Visitation for Nutt Sr. will be from 5 to 7 p.m. today in the Gathering Hall of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock. A memorial service will be held at Immanual Baptist on Friday at 11 a.m. Nutt Sr. will be interred in a private family burial.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (4 Shackleford Plaza -- Suite 207, Little Rock, AR 72211) or the Immanuel Baptist Building Fund (501 N. Shackleford, Little Rock, AR 72211).

Memorial arrangements are being handled by Roller-Chenal Funeral Home in Little Rock.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report

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