MIAMI — Arthur E. Woodard was a man of the people. Legendary football coach, civic leader, teacher and school principal, he made time for just about everyone, and improved many lives along the way.
Woodard, 86, died Oct. 8 in Miami after a long illness. However, his legacy of activism, empowerment and encouragement lives in perpetuity in the lives of those he touched.
“He liked people and people liked him. He was very much a conversationalist, and liked to impart what knowledge he had to young people,” said his son, Harlan. “He always wanted things to be just right. He was empathetic to other people’s conditions, and always wanted to help them obtain a positive outcome.”
Woodard, a native of Live Oak, grew up in South Miami-Dade County. He graduated from Mays High, then went to Florida A&M College in Tallahassee, the university he would champion the rest of his life. There, he made a name for himself in athletics, especially football. He won a Black National Championship, three Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and was selected All-American Tackle-honorable mention. After graduation, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and rose to the level of Captain before he was honorably discharged.
At Florida A&M he met the love of his life, Mary Williams. They married in 1952, and enjoyed a union that lasted 58 years until her death in 2010. The couple raised two children: Harlan and Vanessa Woodard Byers. They raised their young family in the North Florida town of Defuniak Springs. Woodard was head coach in four sports: football, basketball, baseball and track at Tivoli High School.
His accomplishments are recorded at the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), which notes, “In a 13-year career at Tivoli, Woodard’s teams won more than 100 games and were undefeated in at least five seasons. Tivoli also won the Northwest Florida Big Bend Conference title several times during Woodard’s tenure. He was named Coach of the Year in 1962-63.” FHSAA inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 1968, he relocated his family to Miami, where he was an assistant football coach and Athletic Director at Miami Central High. He earned a Master’s degree and Doctorate in Education Administration and became Assistant Principal at Miami Edison Senior High School. In 1979, Dr. Woodard was named principal of Miami Douglas MacArthur High School – North, a position in which he served until retirement in 1991.
Away from education, Woodard was known as the go-to person when things were right, and especially if something was amiss. Harlan Woodard said many days, people knocked on their front door seeking assistance. His dad readily responded.
“It was always an adventure. There was always something, an issue going on. My father would jump up and try to address things,” he said.
Woodard held memberships in several organizations, including the King of Clubs of Grater Miami, Model City Optimist Club, CIVITAN of North Miami and the National Alliance of Black School Educators. He served on the board of Miami-Dade County Office of Community Development. He also was a life member of the FAMU National Alumni Association, and the FAMU Miami Chapter, where he could always be seen at regular meetings and special events, particularly the annual Kwanzaa celebration, which was championed by his late wife, Mary.
Harlan Woodard said that with such boundless energy, his father reminded him of Superman.
He recalled around Christmas 2000, his father’s car was struck broadside while heading home from a community meeting. His vehicle was totaled. He watched as paramedics placed his dad – bloodied and in a neck brace – on a stretcher and took him to Northshore Hospital.
“Seeing him in that condition was terrifying,” Harlan Woodard said. Fortunately, there were no broken bones, so he was treated and released.
The next morning, Harlan watched in amazement as his father went on the lawn in his pajamas to pick up the newspaper “as if nothing had happened. That was a Christmas miracle for me, my best Christmas ever.”
In addition to his son and daughter, Woodard is survived by a granddaughter, Nivia Woodard; two goddaughters, Wilma “Cookie” Strong and Artlyn Kim; siblings, Charles Woodard (Mary), Otis Woodard, Marvin Woodard (Alisha), Carl Woodard (Patsy), Emory Woodard (Carol), Betty Guyton, and Mary Woodard; and numerous relatives and friends.
A viewing will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Friday 10/24/14 at Range Funeral Home Chapel, 5727 NW 17th Ave. Memorial service is 11 a.m. Saturday at Miami Central High School Auditorium, 1781 NW 95th St.