One of Aiken County's most prominent football figures, directly impacting five decades of teams around the state, has passed into history.
Calhoun Folk "Cally" Gault, known to many for his role in North Augusta High School's football program from 1950 until 1963, died Friday at age 91.
"He was very competitive and a very tough coach, and he taught discipline as well as anybody," said Jerry Priestley, who played under Gault's guidance from 1958 to 1961.
Priestley emphasized the word "respect" in his memories of Gault's spoken and unspoken messages. "He always let you know that you'd better respect your teammates and the coaches, administration, teachers and everything."
Respect for the opponent was also expected, and Gault "genuinely cared ... for all the players," he added.
The Bamberg native, following his years in Aiken County, rose to higher prominence as the head coach and athletic director at Presbyterian College, his alma mater (1948).
Priestley suggested that the TV series "Friday Night Lights" could easily have been filmed in North Augusta during the 1950s, with Lions Field as a magnet during home games and almost all local businesses shutting down for the occasions.
Gault's local legacy, in terms of athletics, included two state titles (1958 and 1961) and a 42-game unbeaten streak that was ended by Greenville High, which has Gault among its alumni.
He and the former Joy Y. Godfrey, a Clinton native, were married in 1949 and she is among his survivors, living in Clinton, where the couple resided since they moved from North Augusta.
Gault's football career included jobs as an assistant coach at Mullins High (1948-50) and North Augusta (1950-51), followed by Army service in Korea (1951-52), and he took the reins as North Augusta's head coach in 1953.
Kelly Zier, who played for Gault in 1961 and 1962, said he is not aware of anyone who has spent time with Gault and was not "influenced by him in a very positive way."
A weekend reunion that Zier helped organize in 2003, in the longtime coach's honor, was entitled "Cally's Boys," and Zier confirmed the event got plenty of support from cheerleaders and other women who recalled Gault's North Augusta legacy with fondness. "Everybody at the school just really benefited from Coach Gault being there," he said.
Tommy DeGennaro, whose years at the high school included playing on its most recent state-championship football team (1989), recalled being tremendously impressed in 2002 when he met Gault for the first time. The coach – retired by that point – recognized the DeGennaro name from 41 years earlier, when DeGennaro had an uncle who played for Gault.
"When he came up to me, he grabbed me by the arm, and it was just like an iron grip," he said.
Gault asked how the older DeGennaro was doing. "'Please tell him that I asked about him and tell him I'm proud of him,'" the younger DeGennaro recalled Gault as saying.
Rod Greenway, who played for Gault in 1961 and 1962, pointed out that the coach was a member of the North Augusta Lions Club, sang in the choir at what is now Grace United Methodist Church and served as an umpire in local Little League baseball games in the 1950s.
"He was truly a coach's coach ... Not only did he set a great example, but his language was excellent. He never slipped. His players loved him, whether it was on the college level or at North Augusta High School. He was a great school teacher, and taught social studies."
Some of the respect that local residents had for Gault, Greenway said, was rooted in the fact that the coach was "hand-picked" by Ed Stillwell and Paul Knox. At the time, Stillwell was the high school's principal and Knox was superintendent of North Augusta's schools.
"He was just a class act and loved by all, and he just did things the right way," Greenway said. "I wish other coaches in today's times would follow in his footsteps and just do the right things at all times. He was excellent ... He was the one that you would like for your child to model after."
Gault's data from over the years included an 88-14-7 record at North Augusta High School (1952-63) and a 127-102-8 tally at Presbyterian (1963-1984). He remained on as the athletic director at "PC" until 1995.
A memorial service is set for Monday at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Clinton, according to Gray Funeral Home, and the family will receive friends immediately following the service in the church's fellowship hall.