L.C. Moise: Sumter's 1st football coach remembered in his own words

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Lucius Clifton Moise is widely believed to have been responsible for the beginning of football as an organized sport in the Sumter community. He was known to his students as "Professor Moise," a man of many talents.

Moise wrote an autobiography in 1950 that chronicled his memories of football in its infancy. It was published in The Item, from which much of the following was obtained. Some material and photographs are in The Sumter Item archives, while others were provided by members of the public.

L.C. Moise was born July 27, 1881, in Sumter, a son of the late Gen. Edward Warren and Esther Lyon Moise. He held the distinction of being one of the two oldest living alumni of the University of South Carolina. He attended Sumter's public schools and graduated with honors from the high school, entering the University of South Carolina as a member of the sophomore class. Following college, he studied music in New York City at the Grand Conservatory and with Emil Liebling in Chicago. He specialized in piano and organ, theory and composition. While serving as principal of Sumter High School he was successful in organizing a system of music in the schools. He was Sumter's first football coach, holding the first organized practices on the green (the Washington School campus school yard) during recess.

The following is a personal account of Moise's career and experience as Sumter's football coach. There has been some editing for length.

Early Football in Sumter

The Sumter Military Academy and Female Seminary was established in 1901. That year saw the first organized football team of this city. Professor Chase (an instructor at the Academy) appears in the first team photo and his appearance there remains a mystery. He was an arduous and religious worker and was probably trying to keep us straight. My coaching in 1901 was difficult since I was suffering from the effects of a serious operation and had to walk with a stick. At times the practice had to be suspended until the coach could recover from fatigue. The student body was very small and none had had previous training. We had no financial help from the Academy, so expenses were met by "chipping in."

We practiced on the grounds of SMA located on the corner of Washington and Calhoun streets. Our games were played on the old race track just beyond the Judge Green place on North Main Street. There was no enclosure around the field. Receipts from the games were taken by passing the hat. These free-will offerings were disappointing, to say the least. I remember only one or two games of that first year. We played Welch Neck High of Hartsville, later converted into Coker College. Its team was so badly defeated that when the score was 70 to 0, I sent word to the captain to do no more scoring.

We had a Thanksgiving game with either the freshman or "scrub" team from the South Carolina College, now the University. One of the spectators was Neill O'Donnell, very dignified, wealthy and, as always, immaculately dressed, but slow of foot. A sweeping end play caught him in retreat, and when we picked him up, he was dirtier than he had ever been in his life! Toward the end of the same game the contest became acute. The Thanksgiving "cheer" doubtless had been too freely imbibed, and when the excited citizens saw their team thrown for loss after loss by a far heavier, older and better trained team, it was too much for red-blooded men to endure so they rushed onto the field where followed a free-for-all. Police protection was entirely inadequate, and it took half an hour and much persuading before the game could be resumed. Several Carolina students were cut and bruised in the scuffle and I had to go to Columbia and do my best to explain to the indignant officials of the college how such a thing could happen in a civilized community.

The following year I went to Sumter High School, and Emile P. Moses, now General Moses, took over the coaching. The SMA team of 1902 was composed of the same personnel as that of the previous year. This team was undefeated and unscored on. Its triumph was in sharp contrast to the Academy, which folded the following June. I served as coach for Sumter High School for several years when my health permitted, and in the absence of a better man.

The team of 1910 is unusually interesting because among its members are many substantial citizens of Sumter today . They were a good team, hard-working, enthusiastic. They dressed under the old ruined grandstand of the baseball park in uniforms purchased by themselves; they played their games on rough unrolled, enclosed grounds. The coach received for his services about what he was worth; namely nothing at all. I believe that this made for a closer comradeship between the players and coach than is usually the case. Coaches were always on the alert to give the players as much fun as possible. At the end of each season we always used up the handful of money from the last game in a blowout for the team without help from fans or public subscription. In Sumter, we went to Charlie's Caf where owner Charlie was the most enthusiastic athletic fan we ever had.

The excerpt from Moise's biography continues in next Sunday's Reflections.

Reach Sumter Item Archivist Sammy Way at waysammy@yahoo.com.