Dorth Blade originally won the District D seat on the Ouachita police jury in a 2003 landslide victory over former jury president Daryll F. Berry, indicted that summer after an 18-month investigation of jury corruption.
Later, as the wider community got to know the man affectionately known as “Coach,” we came to realize that the timing couldn’t have been more appropriate.
See, there’s a thread running through stories about the former student-athlete, sideline mentor, school administrator and public servant: Doing things the right way.
That was Dorth Blade.
His considerable achievements include a memorable stint playing quarterback at Grambling, where Blade (second from left above, at a Grambling Legends benefit last fall in Ruston) played a key role on the undefeated 1955 football season under the late Coach Eddie Robinson.
Then, serving as a coach at alma mater Carroll High from 1957-73, Blade guided a succession of talented local youngsters back to GSU — including quarterback James “Shack” Harris, who would earn most-valuable player honors in the Pro Bowl over the course of a groundbreaking pro career.
Harris and Blade won a jaw-dropping 39 consecutive games and the 1962 Class 3A state championship together at Carroll. The Bulldogs were runnersup in 1963.
“The greatest high school teams ever assembled,” Harris said, simply.
Blade was crafting future generations of leaders, even then. Harris, the first black quarterback to start an NFL playoff game, later became one of the league’s highest-ranking African-American front-office executives.
“Coach” moved into academic administration next, helping to implement the magnet program at Monroe’s J.S. Clark. He took to shaping minds away from the gridiron with the same ardent eye and passionate conviction: Even after retiring from the city school system, Blade continued teaching — working in classroom at Westside Alternative School, part of the Swanson Correctional Center for Youth at Tallulah.
He was coaxed back into public service when scandal rocked the Ouachita police jury in the early part of this decade, and served with a canny mix of political savvy and old-school honesty.
“You can talk to anybody you want to about Coach Blade,” said former player Delles Howell, later a starter for the early New Orleans Saints teams. “The just don’t make them like that anymore.”
When Blade, by then 73, ran for reelection for the District D seat in 2007, he had already accomplished much — and not just by spearheading local road projects, lobbying for infrastructure improvements and cleaning up lingering eye sores.
“Coach” had helped to establish a sense of plainspoken integrity on the jury.
He easily won that 2007 runoff election to return to office, and continued to serve honorably — establishing better postal service and a new library were among Blade’s final initiatives — until he was felled by an apparent heart attack on June 6.
Blade passed away on June 10, but his lasting contributions — as a coach, a mentor and community leader — won’t soon be forgotten.
“What I took from him was always be positive,” said current Carroll football coach Jackie Hamilton, another former Blade player. “Always show the kids the right way to do things.”
The right way. The Blade way.