MADISON - Lewis H. "Les" Ritcherson was born April 21, 1926, in Hillsboro, Texas and passed away peacefully in his home in Madison, Wis. on Oct. 24, 2019. He was 93.
He graduated from A.J. Moore High School in Waco, Texas, Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and earned a Master’s Degree from Prairie View College in Prairie View, Texas.
Professionally, Ritcherson was a very successful high school football coach at his former Alma Mater, A.J. Moore High School. From 1950-1965, his record was 138 wins, 38 losses, including, 1951 state co-champion, 1952 state champion, 1954 state champion runner up, 1960 state co-champion and 1964 state champion.
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He has been inducted into The Texas Sports Hall of Champions, Texas African American Coaches Association, Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame, Waco ISD Athletic Hall of Fame, Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Honor and Hall of Fame and the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
This coaching success caught the eye of The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Coach Ritcherson was recruited to become the first Black coach, in any sport, hired by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the second Black football coach hired by a Big Ten School. He coached from 1966-1972 before being named Assistant to the Chancellor at the UW-Madison. Ritcherson also served for many years as the Chair of the Madison School District’s Human Relations Advisory Council and supported the NAACP, Madison Urban League and many other area non-profits. He was a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Ritcherson was known for more than his coaching skills on the field. To many, he was a life coach off the field. He was a leader in life. He led “his boys” to become community-minded men outside of the world of sports. His players regularly kept in touch with him many years after their graduation.
Personally, Ritcherson was married to Velma Joyce Ritcherson, his college sweetheart, for 72 years. They have two sons; two daughters -in-law; four grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and a host of nieces and nephews. Ritcherson was preceded in death by his mother, Izora Jordan; father, James Ritcherson; and two brothers, James and Sercey.
Visitation will take place on November 1, from 5-7 p.m. at Heritage Congregational Church, 3102 Prairie Road in Madison. Funeral Services will take place on November 9 at New Hope Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.