April 4, 2016
A “Bird” named Dewey
By Carey Meitzler
His first game in organized sports was as a
sophomore running back for Philadelphia High
School in Neshoba County, MS. From that
moment, and years before and many years
after, Charles Kermit Partridge has traveled
a very interesting path to become one of
Picayune’s most beloved citizens. It’s a
journey that has many twists and turns that
many would not have been able to nagivate.
Here’s a look at the man Picayune knows
Dewey’s father Andrew Mack Partridge
worked at the Molpus Lumber Mill in
Philadelphia. MS. Dewey’s mother was
of Choctaw Indian decent and along with her
husband they raised six children (5 boys / 1 girl)
living just across the street where not only
worked, but at one point, each of the boys
in their lifetime labored there as well. Dewey
once held a job as a water boy toting two buckets
of water and a ‘public’ ladle to keep the mill
workers hydrated. Later, Dewey was promoted
to ‘stick stacker’ which entailed setting up runner
boards to stack the lumber on.
Dewey with his family in later years
Growing up, Dewey never considered himself
poor because of the labor of his parents to keep
them clothed, fed, and busy.
“If we were poor, we didn’t know it. We wore
overalls and went barefooted. My mother washed
daily and hung our few clothes on the line to dry.
We would always at least look clean. And she
always had a meal cooked for supper daily,” he
Before his sports debut in high school, Dewey
learned football playing on the ‘across the tracks”
pickup team against the uptown city boys.
“They always had helmets, pads, and shoes, but we
still beat the crap out of them regularly,’ said Dewey.
As Dewey started to show his ability on the field
in those pickup games, one of his older brothers
(Ray), who had moved out of the family home to
start his own family, noticed that Dewey had the
skills to possibly be a great athlete like older
brother O.L. who was known for his football
prowess years earlier. Ray encouraged Dewey
to go out for the high school team and Dewey
quickly earned a starting role at running back.
On completion of his playing days in high school,
Dewey and two of his teammates appeared
headed to play at Mississippi State, but Ole Miss
recruiter Tom Swayze came by the school one
day and took Dewey away from school to
Philadelphia’s Benwalt Hotel to talk with Dewey
to try and sway him toward Oxford to play for the
Rebels. Swayze hoped Partridge would also
persuade two of his teammates to follow suit.
After pondering on the decision for a few days,
the trio did choose Ole Miss. By the way, Dewey
played in both the statewide football and basketball
all-star games his senior year, one of only a few
to ever be chosen for both. Not bad for a 140
At Ole Miss, Dewey soon became known as ‘Quail”
as he was dubbed with that nickname by freshman
football coach J.W. ‘Wobble” Davidson. During
Partridge’s senior season, Ole Miss lost to LSU
on Halloween night by virtue of Billy Cannon’s punt
return, but the Rebels gained revenge later by
blanking the Tigers 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl. Many
consider the 1959 Rebels team to be the greatest
of all time and they were crowned National
Champions by the Berryman, Billingsley, Dunkel
and Sagarin polls. Dewey had these thoughts on
his playing days at Ole Miss.
Partridge wore number 43 at Ole Miss
1959 Ole Miss Rebels - National Champions
“In those days, Coach Vaught had three teams
designated as Red, Blue, and Green. I was on
the Blue team. We played both ways. In those
days, substitutions had restrictions. You had to tell
the officials who would start and you could only
sub out one time per quarter. I played running
back and cornerback. Against LSU, Slick (Coach
Vaught) took out the Blue team to bring in the
Red team so Jake Gibbs could punt the ball
away on third down. Still not sure why he did
that at the time. I remember standing on the
sideline with Dog (Billy Brewer) when we kind
of saw Cannon run for the touchdown. I’ve never
actually seen the run. Slick wouldn’t let us watch
the film. That’s the only way they would have
been able to score on us.”
"Dog" Brewer and "Quail Partridge"
Dewey told me that to this day, he had never
seen the run. I pulled up the run on my cell phone
and showed it to him. His first reaction was
“Jake should have just pushed him out of bounds
instead of trying to tackle him (Cannon).”
Seriously, he had never seen the film.
“Coach Vaught always had a film session on
Sunday night at 6:00pm to review the previous
game with us. He never showed that to us.
On Coach Vaught, Dewey said “He was smarter
than most realize. First, we never had an easy
practice. We hit each other (scrimmaged) all
the time. Coach was a stickler for details. He
studied the opponent so deeply. He was big on
knowing the opponents tendencies. We also
ran the same plays over and over and over
until we would get it right. Slick was big on
repetition. One more thing about him was
he never gave a pep talk. He figured we had
to be ready to play. Speaking of details,
I remember for the LSU game he waited and
waited until LSU was taking the field just
before the game so we would run out of the
tunnel onto the field at about the exact same
time so all we could hear was the roar of the
crowd and not give the 65,000 Tiger fans a
chance to boo us. He thought of every little
You referred to Coach Vaught as ‘Slick’?
“Yes, he had a toupee (hair piece),” stated
Coach Vaught & Dewey at a Kiwanis Golf Tourney
After his playing days were over at Ole Miss,
Dewey wasn’t sure what he would do. He
had done some practice teaching, but hadn’t
made up his mind on the path he would take.
Then a phone call from the upstart Buffalo
Bills of the newly formed American Football
“They offered me a free agent contract for
$9,000 to play a full season. I asked the
Bills if they could advance me $500 so I
could buy a car. My family had never
owned a car, so I wanted to get one for us.
They did it and I bought a used1954 Chevy
Bellaire, left it with my family, and I took
off to Buffalo.”
Dewey wasn’t much on geography back then.
“When I went to Buffalo to try professional
football, honestly, I didn’t know where it was
other than north. I remember turning on the
TV at the hotel and there is this guy about to
go over Niagra Falls. I thought to myself,
what an idiot. Anyway, I got there and ended
up rooming with Ole Miss teammate Billy
Kinard who was drafted by the Bills. We
practiced 7 days a week on a field in East
Aurora that was basically as hard as concrete.
It was terrible. Oh yeah, one other thing
about the early years in the AFL is that
players had to bring your own equipment,
so Ole Miss let us have our pads, togs,
and helmet. In those first few weeks, we
got one day off and I ended up at Niagra
Falls. It was beautiful.”
After the last preseason game, Kinard
(Dewey’s roommate) said coach was
looking for Partridge and told Kinard
to tell Dewey to bring his playbook. This
usually meant you were being cut from
the team. In this case, Dewey was told
he was to be a part of a trade with Denver.
Dewey had reached a decision point in
his life. Billy Kinard told Partridge that
he should go to Denver and see what
happens, but Dewey had seen enough
of this kind of football.
“It was just a different type of game. The
offense and defense practiced separately.
There was no opportunity to build any
comradery and togetherness. It just didn’t
seem like a situation I was going to enjoy,”
“I told the coach that I didn’t have a clue
where Denver was located and felt it
was time to go home to Mississippi,
so I asked him to just buy me a ticket
home and I’d leave. The coach refused
saying I would have to pay for it myself
if I was not going to Denver. Well, with
not enough money to get back home,
I had to think of how to make it work out.
I had become friends with a girl who worked
in the front office and I figured I’d try to see
if she could help me out. After a little sweet
talking her and letting her think of how she
could do it without getting herself in trouble,
she said that she had me a ticket to get
back to Mississippi. I flew to Atlanta and
then to Meridian and hitch hiked from
Meridian to Philadelphia. Man, I was glad
to get home.”
After a few days back home in Philadelphia,
he decided to take a drive down to Decatur
to see some friends at East Central
Community College (ECCC) in his car
that he described as “it used more oil
than it did gas for sure.”
Once he got to East Central, he went to
the cafeteria and ran into Clayton Blount,
who like Dewey, had played football at Ole
Miss. Blount’s role at East Central was the
Dean of Men and he asked Dewey if he
had any plans now that it appeared his playing
days were over? Dewey reply “not yet” and
Blount asked him to hang around awhile
because he wanted him to meet someone.
Blount later returned with ECCC President
Arno Vincent and after talking to Dewey for
a few minutes, he offered him a job as Assistant
Dean of Men with a nine (9) month contract
of $250 per month with a free room and free
meals at ECCC. Partridge accepted and
just 3 months later became an assistant football
coach on the staff of Bobby Joe Oswalt who
was a former Ole Miss player in the late 1940s.
Oswalt was from Columbia, MS.
Two years later, Coach Partridge was
summoned to the administration office for
a phone call. On the other end of the line
was Lee Palsey, another Ole Miss graduate,
who wanted Dewey to come to Tupelo as an
assistant football coach. He offered him
$2,800 per year for a 12 month contract.
Dewey told Lee that he was very happy at
ECCC and thanked him for the consideration.
A short time later, Dr. Charles Holladay,
then Superintendent of Tupelo schools, was
on his way back from meetings in Jackson
and stopped in Decatur to pay Dewey a visit.
Dewey knew Holladay from when he did his
student teaching at Tupelo while finishing his
degree at Ole Miss. He told Dewey the
assistant job at Tupelo would be a good
move for him and he would hope that he
would reconsider the offer. After Holladay
left, Dewey thought about it and decided
to go to Tupelo.
When he arrived in Tupelo, Dewey was
given the role to teach five (5) Driver’s
Education classes, Asst Baseball Coach,
Asst Track Coach, and Head Coach B-team
basketball. In 1962, Ben Jones left the job
as Head Coach of the Basketball team
and Holladay wanted to promote Partridge,
but Dewey had other ideas.
“A good friend of mine, Kermit Davis, who I
had met when we played in the high school
all star game was coaching at Leaksville
and wanted to get back closer to home.
I told Dr. Holladay that Kermit was a better
choice,’ Dewey stated.
Davis did become the head coach and led
Tupelo to the state tournament almost every
year while winning the state championship
in 1965 and again in 1966. Davis went on
to coach at his alma mater, Mississippi State,
as an assistant for four (4) years and then
head coach for seven (7) years.
After 3 years at Tupelo, Partridge moved
to Houston, MS, to become the head coach
football coach. He stayed there five (5) years
and then went on to Vicksburg’s Warren
Central High School for five (5) more years.
In 1971, he came to Picayune as head coach
for football and athletic director, the same
role he had held at Warren Central. Partridge
coached at Picayune for seven (7) seasons
before deciding to step away at the end of
the 1978 season.
Dewey (center) coaching at Picayune
“There was a lot of discussion in the community
about a change was needed and I decided to
move on and not fight it. I would have probably
left Picayune and took another coaching job
somewhere else, but J.J. Holcomb was retiring
and a group of business men in Picayune asked
me to come help run the Picayune Athletic
Association (PAA) which is today known as
The Cornerstone. I told them I needed to think
about it. I was concerned about a few things
with the job, mainly the salary, because I had
a wife and a house full of children to feed. But
they were able to work it out and I’m glad I
stayed,” shared Dewey.
Dewey with his 1975 staff at Picayune
Stay he did. Partridge rolled up his sleeves,
dove in and turned the job opportunity into a
career for the next 32 years.
In 2008, Partridge was named Citizen of the
Year by the Picayune Area Chamber of
Commerce. Picayune had become home
“You know, I guess I like Picayune because
it’s a lot like Philadelphia. Great people,
small town atmosphere. You get to know
just about everyone. Take Vicksburg for
example, a good place probably, but it was
On his years at the PAA and Cornerstone.
“I worked with a lot of great people. Early
on it was Gary Johnson, Betty Pierce, and
myself in the management. We really worked
well together. You know running the
Cornerstone was a lot like coaching. Each
day there was a new challenge, something
to deal with. Funds management was always
the biggest challenge, but we always seemed
to find a way to make it work out.”
He also said that he found out later that Pierce
was a student while he was coaching at Warren
Central, but they didn’t know each other then.
I guess Vicksburg was too big as Dewey said
Dewey at The Cornerstone
He was heavily involved for many years in the
Kiwanis Club and for over 20 years organized
a local charity golf tournament with the proceeds
going towards Special Olympics. The event
brought together both local folks as well as
many former coaches and players from across
all universities and colleges in and around
When reflecting coaching career, he shared
“Coaching is like a fraternity. The guys you
compete against, well a lot of times, you
become close friends. We all want to see
our players go on to be successful in their
careers and I think that’s the common bond.”
Best player he coached?
“Crowell Armstrong at Houston. He could
do it all. I mean everything.” Armstrong went
on to play linebacker and kicker at Ole Miss
and later coached on Partridge’s staff at
Best player he coached against?
“Walter Payton when I was coaching at Warren
Central. Dang, no one could tackle him.
Columbia ran the same few plays over and
over. You knew he was going to get the ball,
but it didn’t matter. Also, another one was
‘Mean’ Hugh Green who played at North
Natchez when I was at Picayune. He was
something else on defense. Amazing tackler.”
On the college game today?
“Too many individuals. College football is
just one step away from the NFL. It seems
like there is not widespread allegiance
anymore like when I played. Our 1959 team
was a bunch of true brothers. We did
everything together. Played dominoes,
cards, went to the movies. I don’t get the
feel it’s that way in college today.”
By the way, how did you come to be
called Dewey, I asked?
“Well, growing up it was Mont Mars, Lowery
Robinson, and me. Lowery was born in
Fulton, but moved to Philadelphia at a
young age. We did everything together
so people named us after Donald Duck’s
triplet cousins Huey, Dewey, and Louie.”
Mars went on to become a very successful
lawyer and Robinson a high school
basketball coach who coached in Picayune
from 1977 until 1983. Robinson won back
to back state championships while at
Houston in 1970 and 1971.
I laughed so hard when he shared with me
how he became Dewey. Then, I thought for
a moment how ironic that he was given a
nickname of a duck in his early years and
then a quail in his college days. It hit me
how fitting those names are for a person,
who had covered so many miles and stops
before finally arriving in Picayune.
Looking back now on Partridge’s life, I wonder
if anyone knew at that time the path that life
would weave for this youngest son of a lumber
mill worker? Or the influence he would have
on so many lives? He has truly become a
beacon of life, laughter, wisdom, and friendship
for all those who have been fortunate to have
come in contact with Dewey.
Thanks Coach, we love you and are so glad
you stayed in Picayune.