Story by Tomi Clark
Not just a shadow of a teacher, or just a name of a coach; he was not just anyone you could pass in the hallway without a “hello!”
No, he was so much more.
William Aldridge Bolton, or “Doc” as many knew him, wasn’t merely a name that could pass ears without sonorous awe. He was someone anyone could call upon for favors without him expecting anything in return; he was a beacon of light for many students at Jeff High, who he regarded with the same care of a friend.
Bolton first came to Jeffersonville in 1961 to coach and teach at JHS, specifically arriving to coach football. In the end, his coaching career earned him a career record of 51-30-5.
Alongside coaching a triumphant 1967-68 team to a Hoosier Hills Conference championship, he took on the bats and gloves of baseball, where his career record from 1963-70 was 102-51. He had mentored his teams in such a way that it is beyond comprehension; he pushed, taught, and respected them -- which are a few of many reasons for his success.
“He was always a friend to all of his athletes, no matter if they were star athletes or the ones that very seldom got any playing time,” said David Hatfield, who coached alongside Bolton for two years.
Bolton played four years of football and one year of basketball and track at Elkhart High School. He was inducted into the Indiana Hall of Fame for umpiring and coaching baseball in 1982, and can be viewed on the Wall of Champions in Downtown Jeff, which honors notable members from Jeffersonville.
Some community members would go to the baseball games just to watch him umpire; he soon became known for his signature call for strikes, which was yelling “St-rikeee” so loud that it resonated throughout the stadium. He was an entertainer; people admired his charisma and outgoing personality, which was full of beautiful, bright colors and extraordinary spirit.
He played a crucial, instrumental role in beginning girls’ softball in 1980 at Jeff High -- he encouraged more girls to play and even offered to coach them. He also supported his daughters in the playing of sports, which would have been considered an anomaly at that time -- it wasn’t until the early 1990s that women’s sports had increased in popularity in area high schools.
In addition to coaching at Jeff, he also taught health and physical education, and served as the Dean of Boys. He wouldn’t hesitate to whip a troubled student into shape, but it would ease one to know that they all respected and admired him. Some, once they were older and adjusted to adult life, returned to thank him.
“[Doc Bolton] was a large, imposing figure who was such a positive influence on the entire JHS family -- students, players, teachers, coaches and fans,” said Julie Straight, JHS’ current principal who attended Jeff High while Bolton was there.
He helped students of all demographics; it didn’t matter if they had everything, or absolutely nothing. It didn’t matter if they were the brightest and most intelligent of their time, or not. None of that trivial social hierarchy mattered -- the only thing that mattered to him was that he put forth all of his energy to help other people.
However, not only was Bolton amiable and devoted on the field and at school, but could be considered the best husband and father to date.
“He was dedicated to his work and spent a lot of time there [Jeff High], and he loved his family,” said his wife, Wanda.
They had four children: Diane, Jimmy, Karen, and Nancy, as well as a Doberman pinscher and poodle or two. His entire family, and a myriad of others, supported him through his every endeavor, and they harbor many fond memories of it. There are several small quirks and details of his life that someone who knew him well would know.
He received his nickname, Doc, when he was young because he would go to work with his father, who was a medical doctor. Not soon after, he began to be known as “Little Doc” within his family; that name stuck with him and eventually grew into Doc.
“When we would go to the grocery store, we kids always told him to hide so we wouldn’t be stuck in the store all day because of him talking to everyone,” his daughter Karen said. “Of course he would always stop and talk anyway, but never without a smile.”
He loved Jeff High so much that at his funeral, he wished for the school’s fight song to be played.
Doc Bolton was more than a coach at Jeff High, more than a mentor to students who needed him, more than a father, and more than a denizen of Jeffersonville.
Many would agree that Doc Bolton was larger than life.