Nutt Sr. died from stroke complications

Updated: April 22, 2005, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK – Houston Nutt Sr. was remembered Friday for the many roles he filled – father, coach, mentor, friend.

"What a special man he was," the Rev. Rex Horne Jr. told the hundreds of people who attended a memorial service for Nutt at Immanual Baptist Church. "Not bad for a guy from Fordyce, Arkansas, to do what he did. He had love and pride for the deaf community. He was a father figure."

Dignitaries from Arkansas gathered at the church to pay their respects to the patriarch of the state's most well-known coaching family, who died Wednesday at 74 of complications from a stroke.

Officials and athletic department employees from the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University were among the well-wishers who gathered with family and friends to honor the father of head coaches at both unversities.

Horne said Nutt was a trailblazer in both the Little Rock community and at the Arkansas School for the Deaf, where he served in various roles, including athletic director, for 32 years before retiring in 1987.

In the first few rows of pews sat the families of Nutt's four sons, including Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt Jr. and Arkansas State basketball coach Dickey Nutt. Another son, Dennis, is the basketball coach at Texas State and son Danny is an assistant football coach at Arkansas.

But the focus was on their dad, who played under Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and Henry Iba at Oklahoma A&M – now Oklahoma State – before competing as a member of the American Association for the Deaf team that in 1957 took home a gold medal in international competition in Milan, Italy. A native of Fordyce, he was a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the Deaf Hall of Fame and the Arkansas High School Hall of Fame.

"He's an incredible man," Dickey Nutt said after he watched his niece, Hanna, sing a hymn during the service. "He gave us so much and I can't say enough about him. He loved everybody, especially all of the deaf people."

Dickey Nutt was in the grocery score early Friday morning and said that a young employee told him how much Nutt Sr. made an impact on other people.

"I left there with tears in my eyes," he said.

Dickey Nutt joined his brothers, who formed a line near the main entrance of the church after the ceremony and exchanged greetings with those in attendance. Each son flashed sign language, as they communicated with each other and some of the guests who had hearing difficulties.

Among those who waited to express their condolences to the Nutt family were Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, Arkansas basketball coach Stan Heath and Arkansas State associate athletic director Randy Knowles.

The Arkansas athletic department provided a bus for its employees to get down to Little Rock from Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees moved its Friday meeting from Fayetteville to Little Rock so that its members could attend the funeral.

"It was real important to be here," Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson said. "He left a legacy and it was out of respect for our boss and a man who showed great humanity."

Arkansas senior running back De'Arrius Howard said he made the trek to attend the memorial service because both Houston Nutt Jr. and Danny Nutt went out of their way to be present at the funeral of Howard's brother in 2002.

"A lot of guys wanted to come down," said Howard, who was accompanied by six of his teammates. "It meant a lot us. (Houston Nutt Sr.) was a big part of the Razorbacks family."

Houston Nutt Jr. agreed and said the number of people who came out to pay their last respects for his father was telling.

"It's unbelievable to see a room full of your friends," he said as he clutched a white tissue. "It just shows you the type of legacy he left."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press