Carl Pierson: big man, big impact for Caddo Parish

The late Carl Pierson and his wife, Shirley, enjoying a Southern Jaguars football game in 2013.

By JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports

SBJ BHM logo 250The late Carl Pierson was a tall man. At least 6-foot-6. Maybe taller. Or maybe he simply carried his athletic build so well it just seemed he was taller. He was as comfortable wearing a three-piece suit in a boardroom as he was with a stopwatch in his hand, donned in coaching attire, at a track meet at Lee Hedges Stadium.

He was the epitome of a larger-than-life figure in Caddo Parish.

When he walked into a room — whether it be a preseason gathering of all football coaches in Caddo Parish at B.T. Washington High School to discuss player safety, a Caddo Commission business session, or a Caddo Parish School Board meeting — everyone in the room was aware of his presence.

His size alone would’ve made Pierson, who passed away in 2019 at age 73, an intimidating figure, had it not been for one distinctive trait.

He possessed a trademark smile which would draw you in. Then his infectious, positive, upbeat personality would take over.

“A true gentle giant,” Huntington High head basketball coach Mack Jones said. “Even as large as he was, he was so approachable.”

Jones, who is finishing his 33rd season as a basketball coach in Caddo Parish, should know. When Pierson began his career as an educator at Linear Middle School, he was Jones’ first basketball coach.

“He was demanding,” said Jones, now the dean of high school basketball coaches in Northwest Louisiana. “And he could have a little mean streak in there. But, he never had to raise his voice when he was coaching. He was like a father figure to so many of us in the MLK area. We wanted to please him.”

It wasn’t just as a basketball coach that Pierson made an impression on Jones; he made an impression on him as his P.E. instructor as well.

“He could literally do it all,” Jones said. “It didn’t matter what it was. Basketball. Ping Pong. Tennis. Golf. And he was really good at all of it.”

After Jones went to college at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pierson moved into the central office of Caddo Parish Public Schools, where he served as athletic director for 20 years.

When Jones wanted to return to Caddo to do his student teaching, Pierson “worked his magic” to allow Jones to do it at Byrd High School instead of serving it in Arkansas, which at the time was the norm.

As a young coach in Caddo, Jones would have weekly conversations with Pierson.

“When I had a decision to make, I gave him a call,” Jones said. “Sometimes, I didn’t have to call him. He would just show up — unannounced — just to talk.”

Most coaches and administrators settle down after retiring from education. Not Pierson. He never slowed down. He never stopped serving.

First it was on the Caddo Commission, where he served the people of District 3. He was president of the Commission in 2003 and 2007. Next, beginning in 2011, Pierson served on the Caddo Parish School Board, where he presided as president from 2011-14. He was also president of the Police Jury in 2011.

Pierson was a man for all seasons, and a man for all people. Like Jones said about his middle school P.E.teacher, Pierson really did do it all.

Jones said when he thinks about his former coach, he can picture him singing in the choir on Sunday mornings. Others will remember Pierson coaching AAU basketball for either the Lil’ Jags (a subtle tip of the cap to his beloved alma mater, Southern University), or the Little Round Ballers, an organization so dear to Pierson that the family asked friends to memorialize Pierson with financial gifts to the organization in lieu of flowers.

As great as he was in the public eye, Pierson, by all accounts, was even better as a loving husband to his wife of 37 years, Shirley, and his children — sons Carl Jr. and Carlos, and daughter Nicki.

Larger than life while on Earth. A legacy of public service, of molding young men, of living life to the fullest.

“He was the total package,” Jones said.