Sunday, July 30, 2006

Former Mabank coach Dowdy dies
Dead at 55, returning from Austin
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

AUSTIN–Former Mabank High School athletic director Ray Dowdy was found dead in his vehicle late Wednesday, the apparent victim of a massive heart attack.
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers discovered Dowdy in or near the city of Bastrop, located just east of Austin, best friend Kenneth Henderson confirmed late Thursday.
“DPS supposedly found him around 11 (p.m.), and his wife was notified about 1 a.m.,” Henderson said.
Dowdy, 55, signed a contract to be the assistant principal at Rusk High School Tuesday, and was getting started on moving from Huntsville (where he was the assistant principal) to Rusk, Henderson said.
“I talked to him yesterday (Wednesday), and he told me he was going to Austin to buy a new washer and dryer for his daughter,” Henderson said.
Dowdy was driving when he was stricken, but it is unknown if he was involved in any kind of collision, Henderson said.
Funeral services had not been set at presstime late Thursday, but Henderson expected they would be held somewhere in the Austin area.
A huge offensive lineman, Dowdy won a state championship in high school (on the Childress High School team that also won the mythical national championship), won a national junior college championship at Tyler Junior College, and was a member of the 1969 University of Texas Longhorns national championship team.
Dowdy came to Mabank High School in 1997 as the defensive coordinator, and moved to the head coach’s position in 1999. He served as head coach and athletic director until the fall of 2003, when he resigned.
Bruceville-Eddy head coach Brent Watkins, who served as defensive coordinator five years under Dowdy, remembered him as “a guy who always had your back, no matter what the situation was.”
“He made it a fun environment,” Watkins said. “He lifted everybody’s spirits.”
Former assistant Randy Poole was overcome with emotion when he talked about Dowdy.
“He seems like a tough guy on the outside, but when you got to know him, you found what a great guy he was,” Pool said. “He did a lot for people, and did a lot for the kids – he always put them first, and he didn’t want credit for it.”
“His biggest strongpoint, as an assistant (coach), was he took everything on himself,” Watkins said. “He was our protector-parent.”
“I looked up to him,” Henderson said. “He would give you the shirt off his back.
“People who didn’t know him saw this big barrel-chested guy who screamed,” Henderson added. “He never turned his back on a kid, a coach, or anyone.”
Henderson said he and Dowdy had forged nearly a father-son relationship over the years.
“Without a doubt, he was the most competitive person I’ve ever been around,” Henderson said. “I don’t think you could find a better man.”

Ex-band teacher sentenced to 2 years
Monitor Staff Reports
BROWNSBORO–Former Brownsboro ISD band director Daniel E. Burns will serve two years in prison for two convictions of tampering with a government witness.
A jury could not agree on a third charge of having an improper relationship with a student.
The charge stemmed from an alleged incident occurring in the band room in 2005, when Burns fondled a drum major, a charge Burns adamantly denied on the stand.
392nd Judge Carter Tarrance sentenced Burns, 40, to the maximum sentence on the tampering charges Monday, to be served concurrently without the possibility of parole.
Burns had been eligible for probation. Now with felony convictions, he will be barred from teaching in public schools.
Though led away in handcuffs, Burns may be led back to court in the days ahead.
He is under indictment for improper relationship with a student in Nacogdoches County.
Burns is alleged to have had sexual relations with his 17-year-old student during a band camp held in 2005 at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
The alleged sexual contact was one of three incidents Burns is accused of having with the former drum major.
Prosecuting attorney John Scott argued during sentencing that Burns was a “predator” who needed to be stopped (see related story on 11A).

Driver hits tree, then is struck on SH 198
Monitor Staff Reports
PAYNE SPRINGS–A Mesquite man is in the ICU at Tyler’s East Texas Medical Center, after he was struck in the wee hours Wednesday while trying to flag down a passing motorist.
The 21-year-old was driving his silver Chevy pickup truck southbound, approaching the S-curve on State Highway 198 by Lakeshore Marina near County Road 2529.
“Most likely he was speeding coming into the curve, and then overcompensated,” Payne Springs Police Chief Tim Meadows told The Monitor.
His truck entered the ditch and struck a tree (denting the hood on the passenger side) and then spun around, he described.
The driver left his vehicle, inspected the damage, and began to flag down passing cars.
That’s when he was struck by a red and black Chevy Suburban, driven by a Mabank man.
The incident reportedly occurred around 2 a.m.
The man was airlifted to Tyler and spent the rest of the day in the ICU. When moved out of the unit that night, his lung began to collapse, sources close to the family reported, and he was readmitted to intensive care.
Some of his other injuries include a dislocated shoulder, head lacerations and a broken back, Meadows reported.
Authorities are not releasing his name at this time.
Payne Springs police arrested Matthew Eric Cleveland, 21, of Mabank, on a charge of intoxicated assault.
He was taken to the Henderson County Jail and bond was set at $20,000 and posted the following day.
According to a witness, the hurt man was off the roadway, between the ditch and the white line, when he was struck, Meadows reported.
Investigators were taking measurements at the scene late Monday afternoon, cordoning part of the roadway as they studied the scene.