Gowin leaves a legacy — coach accumulated over 600 wins during tenure

Published 12:36 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Former longtime Buckingham County High School Head Football Coach and current District Three School Board Representative Russell Powell “Pete” Gowin died Friday after a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

After attending Lynchburg College, the Buckingham Central High School graduate coached football, baseball and basketball for 40 years, racking up over 600 wins, and was named coach of the year 10 times, according to his obituary.

Email newsletter signup

In addition to teaching physical education for many years in Buckingham, Gowin also served as the athletic director and administrative assistant at the high school.

Two weeks ago, Gowin won re-election to a third term on the Buckingham School Board. The board could appoint an interim representative until a special election can be held.

Russell “Pete” Gowin

Russell “Pete” Gowin

In addition to working for the school division, Gowin owned and operated a number of businesses in the county.

Billy Johnson, who’s known in the community as one of the most talented football players Gowin coached, said that Gowin convinced him to try out for the football team after his reluctance to play.

After playing football in Buckingham under Gowin’s tutelage, Johnson went on to play at the University of North Carolina as a running back, winning two ACC titles and playing in four bowl games.

“Coach got me started in

the right direction by talking to me, encouraging me to come out and trying to play football,” Johnson said. “He got the ball rolling for me. He had faith in me. And I had faith in him. He was the type of person I could talk to. He was hard but fair. He got me going.”

Johnson said without Gowin, he wouldn’t have attended UNC “and wouldn’t have seen the things or done the things I’ve done. He encouraged me.”

During the time that Division Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead worked with Gowin, the school chief said he grew very fond of him.

“From the first time I met him … he had an unwavering passion to support students and ensure they had the best opportunities. Over the years I learned that his influence [extended] beyond the borders of Buckingham County,” Snead said. “He seemed to know everybody at these gatherings and he always was complemented by those whose paths we crossed. Personally, Pete’s presence will be missed. I won’t ever forget his passions and his sense of humor.”

“I taught with Pete for 20 years,” said retired Buckingham English teacher Dudley Sauve, “and we had a lot of discussions about everything from the school’s administration to the use of the locker rooms as dressing rooms for the plays. He had a tremendous influence on so many students for so many years. I hope my grandson has teachers like Pete.”

While Hal Coleman only played for Gowin for a portion of a season, he developed a great deal of respect for the influential coach.

“I was scared to death to tell coach I was leaving the football team to work in the afternoons. His office was in the back corner of the basketball gym. He took me in, closed the door, sat me down, smoking a cigarette, and he had been reading the sports section of the newspaper … He treated me like a son shaking my hand and giving me a hug. He wished me the best for college. [I] loved that man and [had] a lot of respect for how he handled that meeting.”

District Three School Board Representative and Board Chairman Ed Wise, who played baseball for Gowin, said the coach had a lot of influence on many people “through being an educator. Personally, I always admired his businesses too. He had a knack for spotting business opportunities.”

“I always appreciated his candor … You knew where he stood and I always found him pretty easy to work with. I didn’t have to wonder what he was thinking. He’d let you know pretty quick,” Wise said.