By T. Scott Boatright
Gerald Cobb, a longtime leading light among Lincoln Parish educators, passed away Monday from complications of heart and kidney disease at the age of 83.
After graduating from Ruston High School, Cobb went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Louisiana Tech University in 1960.
He coached basketball and baseball and taught at Simsboro High School for years, later serving as principal of Hillcrest Elementary School, Simsboro High School, and Ruston High School.
Cobb, who also worked as a visiting associate professor at Louisiana State University and Louisiana Tech, also served in the Louisiana Department of Education, working as the director of secondary education, the executive director of academic programs, and the executive assistant to the superintendent.
While with the Louisiana Department of Education, Cobb was instrumental in developing the Compensatory Education Program in Louisiana which provided remediation for students not meeting the passing scores on the State’s Basic Skills Testing Program.
Cobb was superintendent of the Lincoln Parish School System from 1988 to 2003. From 2007 to 2008, he was dean at Louisiana Technical College’s Ruston and North Central Campuses.
He served on many state and national education groups including as president of the State Superintendents’ Association, chairman of the Superintendents’ Advisory Council to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and chairman of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Committee on Junior High Promotion Practices, among others.
Cobb was on the board of directors for the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts and the Louisiana Education Systemic Reform Initiative. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and in 2005, the Ruston High School Distinguished Alumni Award.
Cobb is also known for helping to expand the preschool program, implement the Even Start Program, construct a Parental Involvement Center, initiate the Career Options Program, wire all schools with the Internet, and implement 4×4 block scheduling in high schools.
Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame coach Leon Barmore first met Cobb while Barmore was growing up in Ruston.
“He played football with my older brother for ‘Hoss’ Garrett at Ruston High School in the mid-1950s,”
Barmore said of when he first got to know Cobb. “Later on when I was coaching at Ruston, his son served as a manager for me. He was one of the best and is now a doctor in Montana.”
Barmore was one of the last visitors Cobb had on Monday morning.
“I went by to see Gerald this morning and I guess I’m glad I did, because he didn’t last much longer after I was there,” Barmore said. “I went early, but he wasn’t able to talk or anything like that.”
Barmore praised Cobb’s leadership and ability as an educator, but also said Cobb could have been an all-time coaching great, too.
“If he would have chosen the route I did, he would have been one of the best,” Barmore said. “He was that great a basketball coach and would be in the Hall of Fame today. He was that good a coach, that good a principal and that good a superintendent.
“He just was a very smart, organized, honest person.”
Barmore also credits Cobb for playing somewhat of a role in the Lady Techsters’ first national basketball championship.
“I sat down with him one time because he had a great offense when he was coaching the Tigers at Simsboro,” Barmore said. “He developed an offense they call the wheel, and when we played our first national championship game in Eugene, Oregon, with the Lady Techsters, I used that offense. It was very effective. I’ve always given him a lot of credit for helping me win that first national championship.
“He was such an ‘X and O’ guy. He decided to get out of coaching I’m sure because he wanted to move on up in education, and he did. He even went to Baton Rouge and worked a while for the state. But Gerald Cobb was as good a coach as we’ve ever had around here.”
Cobb was principal at Ruston High when Coach Jack Thigpen led the Bearcats to a Class 4A 1988 boys basketball championship.
“He hired me to come to Ruston High in 1986 and after my second year there, he became superintendent and hired me to become principal at Glen View Elementary School,” Thigpen said. “He was the one who asked me to do that.”
Thigpen said he first got to know Cobb when Thigpen was attending Louisiana Tech and coaching a Dixie Youth Baseball team.
“At that time we had a couple of teams from Ruston and Simsboro had a team, and he was coaching the Simsboro team,” Thigpen said. “That was the first time I actually met him and got to know him — when I was coaching a Ruston Dixie Major team.”
Thigpen also took notice of Cobb’s basketball coaching abilities.
“He was one of the first guys I saw that really pushed the basketball up the floor,” Thigpen said. “His teams pressed and double-teamed you all over the place. He loved to get one of his guys to skip in front of a player coming down the court and if the guy wasn’t paying attention, let them run over his player and draw the charge foul. He did that all the time. Sometimes it was even a guy who didn’t have the ball. A player would turn and look back and the next thing you knew you were over a guy from Simsboro and a foul was being called.”
Thigpen said what made Cobb stand out was his leadership.
“He was a great leader. He was very, very professional,” Thigpen said. “He dressed professionally and was very good at whatever he was doing. He had a plan and knew what he wanted done, and he expected you to follow that plan and do what he wanted done.”
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE