MONTGOMERY — Football coaching legend and Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame member James Robert “Jim” Chafin, 92, passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 27.
“Coach Jim Chafin was a major positive influence on the lives of so many, especially in Montgomery,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said. “He was a leader that led by a life of Christian example.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife of 69 years Joan Hackney, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, their extended family and friends.
“He was an outstanding coach who dedicated his life to teaching the merits of hard work and determination to the student-athletes entrusted in his care and teaching values that helped them become outstanding adults.”
Chafin was born in Albertville in 1928 to Rupert and Mary Lou Chafin and attended Jacksonville State University, where he was an outstanding player and leader on the Gamecocks football team.
He served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War and was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, where he coached the military athletic teams. He then spent many devoted years of his life in the Montgomery County School System teaching and coaching high school students – positively impacting thousands of children’s lives.
He began his high school teaching and coaching career at Isabella High School in 1949 before going into the military. He joined the staff at Sidney Lanier High School in 1954, serving as assistant football coach and head baseball coach. His baseball team won the AHSAA state title that first year.
He moved to Robert E. Lee High School the following year when the school opened in 1955 and spent the next 17 years. Chafin was an assistant football coach on the staff of fellow Alabama High School Sports Hall of Famer (class of 1992) Tom Jones for the first 11 years.
He replaced Jones in 1966 and served his final six years as the Generals’ head football coach, compiling a 51-12-3 record with two state championships and a runner-up finish to rival Sidney Lanier in the first AHSAA state football playoffs in 1966.
His teams posted a 32-game winning streak from 1969-71.
In 1969, Chafin’s Lee team finished 12-0 and won the Class 4A state championship at Legion Field by defeating Berry High School in front of 26,000 fans. The Generals (13-0) won the state title the following year by beating Minor.
During his years as an assistant coach on Jones’ Lee staff, the Generals were 93-12-5 with five state titles awarded in the pre-playoff years.
He also coached state championship wrestling teams.
Not only did Chafin produce some of the Alabama’s most outstanding football teams, several of his former players became outstanding teachers and coaches.
One of his pupils, fellow Alabama High School Sports Hall of Famer (2004) Spence McCracken, said, “I’ve never known a man as consistent living his life the right way as Coach Chafin. I learned to coach by watching him teach. I am a better man because of him.”
After a brief retirement from public education, Chafin returned to become athletic director at Montgomery’s Trinity Presbyterian School from 1982-1992. He brought Randy Ragsdale on board in 1989. Ragsdale was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
In 1993, Chafin was named to the Montgomery Area Sports Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Robert E. Lee High School Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Chafin joined Bobby Buford, Julia Casey, Wayland Cooley, Richard “Butch” Ferguson, Rusty Greer, Jeremy Hays, Bill Moore, Jackie Thrower and the Garrett brothers (John, Gordon, Wheeler, Russell and Norman) in the MCSHOF class of 2009.
He received Jacksonville State University’s Distinguished Award in 1995 and the Alabama Football Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Chafin served as a deacon at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery for many years, teaching Sunday School for more than 50 years.
The Chafins moved to Tyler, Texas, in 2013 to be closer to family and were active members of Green Acres Baptist Church. He suffered a stroke in May 2018.
There was a private graveside burial on Tuesday, June 30, followed by a memorial service at the chapel of Green Acres Baptist Church. Visitation with the family followed the memorial service.