Stephen F. Austin State University

LHS Lobo coach tied the knot, then fed Italy (November 2018)

LHS Lobo coach tied the knot, then fed Italy

By Van Craddock

James Otis Woodman occasionally was on the receiving end of passes while playing football at Texas A&M in 1928-1930.

However, Woodman's best "pass" play came when he came to Longview High School as head football coach in 1931 and caught the eye of a pretty LHS Spanish teacher, Christine Nelson from Atlanta, Texas. They were married in 1935.

Woodman was born in September 1906 in San Antonio. He grew up in Austin, then went to A&M. By his junior year he was a starting halfback for the Aggies. Teammates called him "Bean."

"James Otis is just about as easy-going and unassuming a young man as we know," said the Aggie yearbook. "For three long years he worked to get that "T" (athletic letter) and this year saw his dreams come true … Bean wears that smile and puts out that helping hand."

Woodman hadn't planned to go into coaching when he graduated from Texas A&M in 1931. His major was agriculture with a minor in history.

"I remember my parents talking about the difficulty of finding jobs in 1931. Dad wanted a job in agriculture but the only job he found was the coaching job," said Woodman's son, Jim, who lives in Monument, Colo. "He greatly enjoyed his short coaching time at Longview."

He especially enjoyed making the acquaintance of Christine, a graduate of Denton's College of Industrial Arts (today called Texas Woman's University).

"My mom was very outgoing and sociable," said Jim Woodman. She was clearly the extrovert of the two, played the piano, loved music." She was like my wife, Lynn, who loves people, music, church and is friends with everybody."

Jim's father, he said, was more "a quiet, thoughtful, leader-type person who was not afraid to tackle almost any problem."

After two seasons at LHS, Woodman was fit to be tied ... literally. Longview played six tie games those first two years. However, Woodman turned out to be a fine head coach. In his final two seasons at LHS he won district championships, going 8-1-1 and 7-2-1.

The 1935 LHS yearbook noted: "J.O. Woodman, the beloved coach of Longview High School, has made a success of the team and has done his best with the material available." In four seasons under Woodman, LHS went 22-11-8.

But then Woodman got his dream job, hired as an agricultural extension agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He never coached again.

Woodman and Christine Nelson were married Sept. 1, 1935, in Longview. The new couple resigned their LHS positions and moved to Fort Worth.

"His first job was to work with 4-H Clubs in Tarrant County high schools. They had a number of summer youth camps that he was responsible for," said Jim Woodman.

When World War II came along, Woodman volunteered for U.S. Army active duty despite qualifying for age, marriage and parental exemptions. (The Woodmans had two small children, Jim and his younger brother Bill.)

In 1944 Capt. Woodman went to Italy as part of the Allied Armies' civilian recovery program for war-torn Italian cities.

"Italian towns had been devastated," Jim Woodman said. "Dad's unit was formed to help the Italian people set up local governments, food deliveries, provide farmers with seed and livestock for food."

In addition to aiding countless Italians rebuild their lives, Capt. Woodman "was present and took photos of the German surrender of Italy to the Allies," Jim Woodman said. "He was one of the first responders to bring help to the civilian populations."

Woodman was discharged from the Army in November 1945, having served four years of active duty. He resumed civilian life with Christine in Texas. He later served as manager for a North Texas dairymen's cooperative until 1970, moving the family to Colorado in 1993.

J.O. Woodman died March 10, 2002, in Pueblo, Colo. Christine died three weeks later, on April 1.

By the way, J.O. Woodman's older brother, Vernon "Jelly" Woodman, scored 44 points for Texas A&M against New Mexico in October 1926. Nine decades later, that performance remains an Aggie football record.