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

as 'Dewey'.

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

League (AFL).

“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,”

Dewey said.

“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

for Dewey.

“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

too big.”

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

these thoughts.

“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.