Reese Slaughter … Living Life Abundantly

Lyn Scarbrough

June 30, 2023 at 3:13 pm.

Through Triumph and Tragedy, Keeping the Faith, Setting the Example

“I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10, KJV

Chette Williams and Reese Slaughter (Photo: Lyn Scarbrough/Lindy’s Sports)

Reese Slaughter didn’t go to church regularly when he was a young boy.

“We lived in the country, about six miles out from Camp Hill,” Slaughter said, referring to his childhood home in Tallapoosa County in central Alabama. “Things weren’t the same back then. Men and women even had to sit on different sides of the church in the services.”

Back then for Reese Slaughter really was WAY back then. He celebrated his 98th birthday in May, born in 1925.

Slaughter was raised in a Christian home.

“My mother would rock me and read Bible stories,” he recalled. “I remember asking her about death; why did that have to happen? She told me, ‘God always knows best.’”

The young boy could not have imagined then how much that admonition would bring him comfort and peace later in his life.

Reese Slaughter’s life has for sure been full.

He was in the U.S. Navy during the latter stages of World War II, serving on an aircraft carrier in 1945 and 1946.

After his Navy discharge, Slaughter made a decision that impacted the rest of his life. He chose to attend Auburn University (known then as Alabama Polytechnic Institute) to play football. An outstanding high school running back, his college future was promising, but a leg injury ended his playing career.

“Coach (Joel) Eaves (future Auburn head basketball coach and University of Georgia athletic director) asked after the injury if I wanted to coach basketball and baseball in Straughn, Ala. a community outside Andalusia. Of course I took advantage of that. I got $75 a month.”

That $75 job was the start of an honored career in education. During the next several decades, Slaughter was a head football coach, elementary school principal, high school counselor and coordinator of the Title I government program. He established a culture of excellence among teachers and students that set a solid foundation.

His athletic teams were winners. His schools were well-organized and disciplined. He had students who became career professionals, business executives and community leaders.

At Bremen (Ga.), where the Slaughter family moved in 1962, Reese was the first principal at H.A. Jones Elementary School, where the annex is named the Slaughter Annex. When he retired, Bremen’s mayor declared Reese Slaughter Day, including a parade and festivities in his honor.

In October, 2022 at the Arkansas-Auburn football game played in Auburn, he was honored as the oldest living former Auburn football player, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd as he and his family were shown on the stadium’s giant video screen.

But it was also in education and athletics where he suffered his greatest tragedies.

In 1955, his Dadeville high school team was playing Auburn. His first wife, Mildred, who was the mother of his first two children, was a physical education teacher and cheerleader coach there. As he was on the sideline during the game, Mildred, who was also on the sideline with her cheerleaders, collapsed there and died due to a blood clot that broke loose.

Reese and his second wife, Mary, married in 1957 and made the move to Bremen five years later.

In 1970, Stan, an only son and a high school senior, was a wrestling team member. During a tournament there, his neck was broken in a match. He was taken from the gym on a stretcher, but died that night at the local hospital.

“We could not have made it through these things without God, without the prayers and support from Christian friends,” Slaughter said.

“When Stan died, I thought about what Mama had said, ‘God always knows best.’ Good things can come from tragedy through God. After his death, five of his teammates ended up going to seminary. They’ve all said that Stan’s example was influential in their decisions.

“I knew that we had to face it. We couldn’t let it knock us down and change how we lived our lives. This became part of my testimony in our lay ministry.”

Reese and Mary Slaughter have made a difference.

“Church activities were always a big part of our lives,” said daughter, June. “Daddy was strong, patient, a man of faith. He was just ‘Daddy’ to me, but as an adult, I realized what a great role model he has been for me and so many others.”

“Reese Slaughter is one of the most thoughtful, one of the strongest, men that I’ve ever had the privilege to know,” said Dave Pollard, a longtime neighbor, who also attended school under Slaughter’s leadership.

Ellen, the family’s third child, emphasized how sports and tragedy impacted their lives.

“Sports has meant so much to Daddy, from providing his way to attend college to being a coach and educator,” she said. “Yet, he experienced two heart-breaking tragedies related to athletics. Both losses at a public sports event while he was there in a very visible leadership position in a small town. His approach to life has had such a significant positive influence on so many people.”

Chette Williams, a former Auburn football player who has been Auburn’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes campus director for almost 25 years, has a close relationship with Reese.

“Reese Slaughter has been the elder, not just for our Auburn football family, but also as such a strong supporter of the FCA,” he said. “He has been a mentor and a friend.”

“Whenever he has visited our practices, you can still tell that he was a coach. He was immediately enthralled with the drills and with meeting our young men. And, the fact that he coached at Dadeville High School, and that’s where I live now. Irony or God’s connection?”

Reese Slaughter would view it as God’s connection, as he has with almost everything.

It validates what is said in his favorite Bible verse, John 10:10.

By God’s grace, Reese Slaughter, through example and faith, in triumph and tragedy, has lived his life abundantly.