'Remember the Titans' Inspiration Bill Yoast Dead at 94

Bill Yoast, the former high school football coach portrayed by Will Patton in the 2000 Disney film Remember the Titans, died Thursday at age 94, his daughter said.

Yoast died at an assisted living facility in Springfield, Virginia, his daughter Dee Dee Fox told The Washington Post. No cause of death was released.

Yoast served as defensive coach at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, from 1971 to 1996. In 1971, the Alexandria school district consolidated T.C. Williams with its two other high schools, Francis Hammond and George Washington.

He was thought to be the frontrunner to coach football at the consolidated T.C. Williams after succeeding at Hammond, but the school district picked Herman Boone, an African American coach, instead. Still, Yoast joined as defensive coordinator and convinced the all-white Hammond players to try out for the new T.C. Williams football team, which would be integrated.

The relationship between Yoast and Boone was at the center of Remember the Titans, in which Denzel Washington played Boone. It was difficult between the two at first, but eventually they led the Titans to an undefeated season in 1971. Boone continued coaching the Titans until 1979.

"No doubt, the beginning of our relationship was rocky," Boone told the Washington Post Sunday. "I didn't know Yoast. Yoast didn't know me. I knew that Hammond had no black athletes and I didn't know if coach Yoast had anything to do with that. But we got to [training camp] and became roommates and found a way to talk to one another."

Boone said their relationship could be a "formula for race relations throughout the world" and showed how important communication is.

"People have to learn to talk to one another," he said. "You have to learn to talk to that individual, and when you talk to that individual, you learn to trust that individual, and that's the greatest gift God to give to man."

Yoast was born in Florence, Alabama, and served in the Army Air Corps for three years. He graduated from Georgia Military College and coached in Sparta, Georgia. He left Sparta in 1954 after he was called out for letting black basketball players use the showers at his high school.

Yoast moved his family to Alexandria in 1960. He retired from teaching in 1990 and spent time with his grandchildren in Delaware. He was also close to the T.C. Williams family and toured the country to speak about the Titans' undefeated season after the movie came out.

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Yoast is survived by his ex-wife Betty Yoast, daughters Dee Dee Fox, Angie Garrison and Susan Gail Greeson, nine grandchildren and more great-grandchildren. The funeral is scheduled for June 1.

Photo credit: JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images

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