EDITOR’S NOTE: Sad news on Tuesday with the death of longtime OHS coach Julian Pressly. Pressly was a World War II veteran and a 60 year Freemason. He was 98. Here’s a look back at Pressly from a story from October 2021 when Pressly was inducted into the Odessa Athletics Hall of Fame.
Ninety-seven-year-young Coach Julian Pressly has been an Odessa fixture since 1953. A polite response to an offer resulted in a success story that surprised even him.
“Right before I was heading back to Abilene to play ball, I got a call from my old coach in Fort Worth – Cooper Robbins – who was a winning coach in Breckenridge,” Pressly recalled. “He said, ‘You need to come to Odessa and be a high school coach.’ I never gave it a thought to teach in high school. But the superintendent offered me $5,500 per year. I told him that I’d have done it for $4,500.”
Pressly and his wife stopped by Odessa on the way back from a vacation to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. He started work that Monday in 1953.
The rest, well, is history.
He was the head Odessa High School baseball coach for 12 years with winning seasons that took them to the state baseball tournament three times. His teams garnered 162 wins, six district titles, regional quarterfinals, state semifinals and state championship games.
This led him to become one of the first baseball coaches at Odessa College in 1964. He led OC teams to 163 wins in five seasons and won their conference championship each season.
Pressly was born in Fort Worth to Josh and Fern Pressly on Jan. 18, 1924. His early education was spent at Circle Park Elementary, J. P. Elder Junior High and Fort Worth Tech. He attended McMurray University and Texas A&M University.
His first taste of organized sports was through the Boys Club in Fort Worth. A wealthy group of women scouted the neighborhoods and invited him and other neighborhood boys to join. Later, he was able to organize the Boys Club in Odessa to pay back that experience from his youth.
He played football and baseball while enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in El Toro, CA, 1945-1946. He then played professionally for seven years in Abilene and on the American Legion/Semi-pro teams the Conroe Wildcats and Waco Dons.
He has been married to his wife, Edith, since 1948 and they have four children. All four played sports. Julie played tennis, Elaine and Debbie swam, and John played football and baseball.
“Coach” is a huge Odessa High Broncho fan and attended every game for more than 66 years. He has seen so many of his players become very successful — many are doctors and lawyers. In fact, before this interview he attended two football games: Odessa High and Permian High. He saw one of his former players at the Permian game that he hadn’t seen since 1954. He didn’t recognize him at first but remembered him and told him, “’Yeah, I know all about you. You skipped out on me in 1955. You should have played for me in Odessa.’”
When mentioned that there were several nicknames for him when he was younger — “Tex”, “Snooky” and “Catfish” – Pressly laughed and replied, “Well, you can call me anything, but late for lunch!”
He shared a story about a group of former athletes at the college. One asked if there were scholarships. “I told him that he’d get an education and if they scrubbed the dishes, they’d get fed,” he said. “There was no jealousy and no special favors – they all had to pitch in.”
Pressly also was honored with the Odessa High School baseball field named in his honor: J. E. “Coach” Pressly Field. “I had no idea they were going to do that,” he said. “I went to the game and there it was on the scoreboard.”
He was inducted into the Western Junior College Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016. He was also named an honorary coach for the Texas High School All-Stars game in 2019.
Not only was Pressly a successful coach in Odessa, he also served as Ector County Commissioner for 12 years, was a Justice of the Peace for 12 years and was elected to the Odessa College Board of Trustees in 2002. He is a 50-year member of the Odessa Shrine Club El Maida Shrine Temple in El Paso, a 60-year member of the Odessa Masonic Lodge 955 and a 60-year member of the internationally recognized Odessa Chuck Wagon Gang. For 60 years, he has been a member of Traveler’s Protective Association, a fraternal organization that focuses on safety. He served as both vice president and president of that organization when the membership was 200,000-plus.
His slogan and how he wishes Odessans to remember him – is simple yet profound:
“Life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives.”